Yet another accident involving an elk on Highway 18 is raising calls for something to be done about the ongoing problem, which has proved fatal in the past — to both elk and people.
Sherry Treftlin said her co-worker was driving from Lake Cowichan to Duncan one night recently when, about four kilometres east of Lake Cowichan, she struck an elk so hard that her car had to be written off due to the damage.
Treftlin, who was travelling in a vehicle just a few car lengths behind her co-worker when the accident occurred, said the elk had been hit twice.
“The elk was first hit by a car going in the other direction, then it ran into the woods before returning to the highway where it was struck by my friend,” she said.
“The police arrived about five minutes later and had to shoot the elk to put it out of its misery. My friend’s back is pretty sore after the accident and she’s still pretty shaken up, but she feels lucky to be alive.”
Treftlin said the problem of elk on the highway is getting increasingly worse, and blamed logging in the surrounding hills that are driving the elk onto the roadways.
“Flashing lights have been placed at some locations along Highway 18 to warn people to slow down and watch for elk, but they aren’t working,” she said.
“We need overhead lights along the highway so the elk can be better seen at night. Somebody seems to die on the highway every year after hitting an elk. Something needs to be done.”
It has been reported there were at least 10 accidents involving elk on Highway 18 last year, with one fatality.
On Nov. 19, 2019, a collision with an elk on the highway took the life of Maureen Cowles-Curtis.
A release from the Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure said the ministry sends its sympathies to those involved in the recent collision.
The release said the Highway 18 corridor is a complex stretch.
“The largely rural area features a narrow right-of-way, varied terrain and large areas of privately owned land and different land uses, ranging from residential to industrial, commercial, agricultural and First Nations protected lands, which makes this corridor challenging for integrating wildlife protection infrastructure,” the ministry said.
“However, in September, the ministry successfully installed six flashing signs warning people to watch out for elk. These signs are set to flash in low light conditions, year round, to help drivers stay alert about wildlife in the area. These signs were placed along the corridor in areas identified as high wildlife crossing zones.”
The ministry said another initiative taken to improve sight lines and safety for drivers along Highway 18 includes mowing an extra wide berth beside the highway.
“The maintenance contractor is currently mowing and brushing this corridor as weather permits,” the release said.
“The ministry is always looking at ways to improve safety for drivers and wildlife and will continue to investigate lighting and other mitigation measures for this corridor in the future.”
A previous release from the ministry this fall said the rutting season for elk occurs from late October to December, with the most activity seen in mid-November, and it’s not uncommon to see an increased elk presence while travelling along roads and highways where they are located at this time of the year.
During the rut, male elk show increased interest in female elk, as well as increased aggression toward other male elk, often causing animals to move quickly with little regard for their surroundings.
“As this season poses an increased risk for elk-vehicle collisions, travellers on B.C. highways are reminded to pay extra attention, especially when driving at dusk, dawn and night hours when these animals are most active,” the release said.