Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - With thousands of miles of interstate highways, state and county roads, it probably comes as no surprise that Montana drivers frequently plow into wild animals, but according to the Montana Highway Patrol, we’re number one in the nation.

KGVO News spoke to Sergeant Jay Nelson, Public Information Officer for the Montana Highway Patrol who provided the details.

Montana Ranks First in Crashes Involving Wildlife

“A recent study has shown that we're number one for motor vehicle crashes involving wild animals,” began Sergeant Nelson. “Like I've said so many times in my many years with the Montana Highway Patrol, it's just a matter of time whether you're in a marked patrol car or your family's minivan, you're going hit a deer, elk, or some type of wild animal.”

Nelson related a personal story about an on-duty collision with a wild animal, ironically while he was responding to another crash.

MHP Spokesman Relates Personal Wildlife Crash Story

“I'll never forget the time early in my career. I was responding to a motorcycle crash,” he said. “I knew I was going to be first on the scene, but a small fawn jumped up in front of me. I couldn't do anything, so I just kept going and I arrived at the motor vehicle crash and everybody kept looking at me asking ‘Are you okay?’ as my vehicle looked quite odd as I was showing up to help on this crash.”

Nelson shared a little-known fact about one of the only wild animals that drivers may encounter on the highway whose pupils do not reflect back from your headlights, making it much more difficult to avoid striking.

A Little-Known Fact about Wildlife that Could Save a Life

“I can tell you in my 25 years, one of the things, and we don't see this too often, but at nighttime, we're always looking for that glow, that reflection in the animal's eyes,” he said.  “But the moose is one of the only wild animals that does not have that reflection, believe it or not. And so you have to keep your head on a swivel looking for those movements, those eyes glowing.”

Nelson said there were 7 fatalities involving wildlife crashes in 2022, along with 11 in 2021, according to the MHP annual reports.

Nelson said his number one piece of advice while traveling on Montana’s highways is to simply slow down to give yourself a few precious seconds of response time and possibly save a life.

LOOK: Most dangerous states to drive in

Stacker used the Federal Highway Administration's 2020 Highway Statistics report to rank states by the fatalities per billion miles traveled. 

Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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