Is it the speed of drivers, the at-times-blind corners, or the poor lighting? What’s to blame for the collisions with elk on Highway 18?
Feedback to the Citizen’s Dec. 2 story entitled “Support growing for wildlife fencing, lights on Cowichan’s Highway 18” was swift after the paper posted the story on Facebook.
“Been driving Hwy 18 for years day and night elk or no elk. Slow down pay attention is all you can do. Only solution possible is slowing down the speed limit!” wrote Jody Lee Chrysler.
“Lights and lower speed,” added Lindsay House. “Or lower speed for night and fog. Daytime 100[km/hr] is ok but dark rain fog it’s scary.”
Rudy Heisler and Ray Mead understood the scope of the situation and know the answer isn’t simple.
“Overpasses would be great, but cost upwards of $5 million each, and would need fencing to funnel the wildlife into those overpasses, another large expense,” wrote Heisler. “Those dollars would have to come from taxpayers.”
Mead’s idea was more practical.
”I have to assume in most cases the accidents happen when the animal darts out of the brush right beside the road not giving enough time to react,” he wrote. “Clearing the side of the road so people have time to see them with maybe some lighting in certain places would probably help the most.”
Dale Doebert agreed.
“The best drivers driving the speed limit can still have crashes anywhere around here,” Doebert said. “My suggestion is to clear back the roadways from trees and brush like many other parts of Canada have done. this gives the driver and the animal a lot more time to avoid each other.”
Cindy Williams said in all her years in the area, collisions with elk have never been so prevalent.
“I grew up in Lake Cowichan and drove that highway not only many years with my parents but on my own,” she wrote “There have always been elk but never any accidents until they upped the speed limit and more people have moved there and Youbou….slow it down! Drop the speed limit!”
Kayton Hester called for a shifting speed limit on the highway.
“Make this a variable speed corridor like the Coquihalla. 100 during day 80 during night. Wouldn’t that make sense? Then they can also warn and adjust to weather conditions,” Hester wrote. “I’d rather the family take 20 minutes longer to get home then never come home.”
Preston Schedel doesn’t see a real solution at all.
“Everyone likes to blame it on speed, or drivers. But what most of you people don’t understand is the herds are larger than ever. They are more abundant also bringing the likely crash numbers up,” Schedel wrote. “They stay around the towns and highways because the wolves and cougars tend to avoid the public areas and with our conservation efforts their numbers will only continue to grow. The highway speed won’t change a bloody thing seeing as a surprise elk is a surprise elk. If they clear the shoulders like they have up island and bring in a cow guard like fence even then you’re still going to have issues! What do you expect a fence from highway 18/ TCH connector to the end of Youbou? Not likely!”
What’s the solution? It seems to depend on who you ask. Authorities have thus far not made any changes, though they do say the Highway 18 elk situation is being looked into.