In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 16, a local motorcyclist driving from Lake Cowichan to Duncan struck an elk on Highway 18, about 2.4 kilometres east of Lake Cowichan.
Local RCMP, ambulance, and the Lake Cowichan Fire Dept. responded, and the man, whose name has not been released, was taken with multiple fractures to Duncan. The man was then transported to Victoria.
Sgt. Dave Voller says that the elk came from the right, or south, side of the road and that the gentleman must have seen it because he swerved left to try and avoid the animal. Voller also says that the motorcycle must have passed underneath the elk after striking it before skidding approximately 100 metres down the highway and landing in the ditch.
Voller wonders if lack of visibility is a factor in many of the collisions that happen with elk and other wildlife in the area. He says that if there was funding available, he would like to see the brush on the side of the road cut back by 50 feet. “Perhaps this would give motorists more of a chance,” he says. “But there is a significant cost involved.”
Grant Daly, owner of Daly’s Auto Centre in Youbou, says he thinks the problem is only going to get worse. Though he is happy about the new, large “Watch for Elk” sign at the east end of Highway 18, there are hardly any signs on the Youbou Highway.
Daly’s tow truck is often used to haul away vehicles damaged or destroyed by elk on the highway. He says that last week there was another collision near the intersection of North Shore Road and the Youbou Highway. The front windshield of the car was completely destroyed by the animal, and Todd Vaughan, an employee of Daly’s, says that if there had been a passenger in the vehicle, they would not have made it. As it is, the driver of the car is lucky to have walked away.
Both men advise caution on the roads, especially in the early morning or dusk hours.
Vaughan says that when he moved to the area 20 years ago, he would see maybe one or two elk a year, and now he and other residents are seeing herds, especially at the east end of Youbou, near Swordfern, and along the highway near North Shore Road.
“They surprise you,” he says. “You often won’t see them until they are right beside you, and it’s too late.”