Moose on the loose: Peak crash season approaches in Finland

Reindeers graze close to a snowy road in Finnish Lapland. (Olivier Morin / AFP)
Reindeers graze close to a snowy road in Finnish Lapland. (Olivier Morin / AFP)
Autumn sees a peak in moose-related traffic accidents in Finland. The number of vehicular collisions with moose and deer has grown in the 2010s, but fortunately very few of the hundreds of incidents have led to personal injury–at least to the vehicle’s occupants.

There are more traffic accidents involving moose and deer in the autumn because the animals tend to be on the move. Hunting season begins in September, and many individual moose are also searching for a mate at this time of year.

“On top of that, the autumn means worse traffic conditions and skies growing dark already during periods with heavy traffic,” says Jani Körhämö, a game manager at the Finnish Wildlife Agency.

Körhämö says the central regions of the country contains areas with the highest incidence of moose and vehicle collisions.

“The belt with the most activity extends from the coast of Ostrobothnia, through Central Finland, all the way to Southeast Finland. Last year most of the recorded accidents took place in the region of North Savo,” Körhämö says.

Hunting on the rise

In 2016, 1,881 moose-related traffic accidents were reported in Finland, 600 more than in 2011. Three people died and 144 were injured, meaning that people were hurt or killed in just six percent of all incidents.

Vehicle collisions have risen as the population of Eurasian elk (known widely as moose) and white-tailed deer has grown. As a remedy, the authorities have issued one-quarter more hunting permits this year than in years past.

Körhämö says that accidents with deer have become a considerable problem in southwest areas of Finland in particular.

Moose accidents in Finland 1993-2016 (Yle)

“Collisions with deer have increased dramatically in recent years, but we are now trying to quell this with enhanced hunting.”

Better car safety features save lives

Overall, the situation in terms of driver safety has improved. For two years of the last seven years, for example, no human life was lost in a moose or deer accident.

Traffic watchdog Liikenneturva’s director Anna-Liisa Tarvainen attributes the lower death toll to improved car safety.

A poll from Liikenneturva last year suggested that plenty of motorists in Finland have had a close call with moose on the road. Over one-third of respondents to the survey said they have had to slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid a moose or deer on the road in the last three years.

Drivers can’t do anything about the number of moose on the road, but they can do several things to improve their safety behind the wheel. Tarvainen says motorists would do well to pay heed to the moose crossing signs posted along the roads.

Moose accidents 2012-2016 : time of day (Yle)

“Slow down when you see a warning sign because the speed at which you are driving has a big effect. Dropping to 80 km/hr on a 100 km/hr road brings great benefit, because the higher the speed, the more serious the aftermath of an accident,” she says.

Be most careful after things get dark

The most typical moose-vehicle collision in Finland typically takes place on a two-lane motorway in the late evening or early morning.

“The time of day in which the risk is greatest is about an hour after sunset,” says Tarvainen.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Is climate change making the muskoxen sick on Victoria Island?, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Dozens of dead moose discovered in Arctic Finland, Yle News

Iceland:  Feature Interview – Hunting culture under stress in Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway:  Grouse declines lead to strict hunting regulations in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Are wolves from illegal Russian kennel in Finland?, Yle News

Sweden: More wolves can be culled after Supreme Court decision, Radio Sweden

United States: Lack of sea ice has deep impact on wildlife and upcoming weather in Alaska, Alaska Dispatch News

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