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Road kill, though not a pretty thing, does happen at Cal Poly.
According to Facility Services pest control and spay specialist Bob Selders, summer and fall are when road kill most commonly occurs on campus. Animals hit include deer, tree squirrels, possums, skunks and raccoons.
“Deer like our campus,” Selders said. “There is always water and food; it’s irrigated.”
Deer are populous on campus during summer months because of the low student population. However, when fall arrives, they retreat because of the rainy weather and increase in students, director of facility operations Scott Loosley said.
Because of the drought, deer are now migrating toward campus looking for food, Loosley said.
Though they are seen dashing through campus streets, it’s rare that deer are hit, Selders said. It happens approximately four times each year, usually on roads further out from campus, such as Highland Drive and Via Carta — one deer was killed on Via Carta this past Monday.
Deer are often skittish, and their impulsive nature makes them a target for road kill.
“There’s a lot of truth to a deer in headlights,” Selders said. “(They) are blinded by headlights and freeze.”
According to Loosley, slowing down when driving is the best method to avoid killing an animal. However, if a driver does encounter a deer and is unable to avoid it, it is better to accelerate than to try to stop the car quickly. Hitting the brakes hard makes a car’s nose go down, meaning the deer could hit the windshield and potentially harm passengers. Increasing speed brings the front of the car up, so the deer would go under the car.
After deer, bushy tailed squirrels are the most common animal hit. Smaller animals such as squirrels are hit in the core of campus, Selders said, and it happens approximately two to four times each year.
“(They) just don’t get across the road fast enough,” Selders said.
When an animal has been killed on campus, it is usually reported by public safety, which contacts Selders. He is responsible for removing animals during the day.
At night, however, there is usually a representative from engineering services or public safety on duty who can respond to the call. A person who works for custodial or landscape services is also qualified to address the situation.
Overall, the best way to avoid road kill, Loosely said, is to go the right speed.
“If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down,” he said. “You will have more time to stop.”
Also, having a general awareness when driving can help a driver more easily spot wildlife, Selders said.