Record editorial: Wildlife are returning to the lower elevations. Drivers beware. |

Record editorial: Wildlife are returning to the lower elevations. Drivers beware.

Slow down and save a life.

While that’s good advice to follow whenever and wherever you’re behind the wheel, the life you could save in Park City by heeding the speed limit and being alert on the road may not be a human’s.

The arrival of fall and the cooler temperatures that come with it means more wildlife are heading into Park City’s lower elevations in search of food, as people passing by the McPolin Farm last week discovered when they were greeted by the sight of a large elk herd that spent several days roaming the land.

Already, though, there have been several reports of incidents over the last few weeks involving vehicles hitting animals. And the trend is unlikely to slow much until the weather warms next spring.

It isn’t possible, unfortunately, to modify the animals’ behavior. They don’t typically look both ways before crossing the road, and they don’t line up at crosswalks, patiently waiting for the white hand signal and for cars to slow to a stop.

That means it’s on us as drivers to be responsible for the safety of the wildlife.

Put simply, drivers must be aware that the threat wildlife represents on the roads in Park City is ever present and adjust accordingly. Keep your speed in check, be on the lookout for animals and be prepared to stop or safely maneuver out of the way if one darts out into traffic.

There’s no way to completely eliminate the collisions, but if we all practice more caution, the numbers of animals killed or seriously hurt would be dramatically reduced.

One of the areas where driver behavior is most egregious is the stretch of S.R. 224 between Temple Har Shalom and Meadows Drive. The Utah Department of Transportation reduced the speed limit there from 55 to 45 mph two years ago in an attempt to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions, yet at all hours of the day, drivers whizz by at 55 mph or faster, oblivious to, or unconcerned by, the possibility of a deer prancing into traffic with little warning.

It remains a common sight to see a carcass on the side of the road there, another victim of the transformation of this wildlife habitat into the bustling urban area we know as Park City.

Hopefully this fall and winter will be less deadly for wildlife than those in the recent past. But it’s unlikely to happen out of pure luck. Slow down, look around and save a life — and in doing so, protect the wildlife whose majesty adds to the splendor of Park City.

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