Drivers in northern British Columbia are accustomed to scanning the road for deer darting across the blacktop or moose stopping in the middle of the highway, especially at dusk, when drivers watch for shadowy shapes.
And they have good reason to be cautious.
Northern B.C. had an average of 2,700 wildlife-vehicle collisions, 210 people injured, and two deaths per year, between 2016 and 2020, according to the authors of a peer-reviewed study in the B.C. Medical Journal.
The article, Health Care Access and Injury Patterns in Patients following Moose and Deer Vehicle Collisions in North-Central British Columbia, is published in the September 2022 issue of the B.C. Medical Journal.
Number of injured victims in Northern B.C. animal crashes
The authors studied hospital records of crash victims to provide medical professionals with more information about the severity and type of patient injuries after crashes with ungulates.
Researchers looked at the medical files for 156 patients who were treated at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (formerly the Prince George Regional Hospital) after collisions involving a moose or deer between 1993 and 2014.
Just over half of those injured were brought to hospital by ambulance.
Although crashes with deer were three times more common, collisions with moose caused more serious injuries because of the moose's size, weight, and high centre of gravity.
Patients whose vehicles had struck a moose suffered more traumatic brain injuries, facial fractures and neck and eye injuries, and they were more likely to need orthopedic surgery.
In a collision, moose often strike and shatter windshields and cause airbags to inflate.
Deer were more likely to be struck by a vehicle's bumper or grill, and occupants were more likely to suffer whiplash and neurological problems.
The researcher's study of hospital records showed collisions were most common in August with deer and in September with moose. Most collisions occur at night, and the researchers recommend that emergency doctors take note of the time of collision in medical charts to aid in future research.
Across Canada, 236 people died in moose–vehicle collisions and 123 people were killed in collisions with deer between 2000 and 2014. Injuries were far more common than deaths.
Across North America, researchers said there are approximately 45,000 reports of wildlife-vehicle collisions each year, but many crashes go unreported.