The last thing a driver wants to see in the middle of the roadway is a moose. Seeing the moose, however, is far better than failing to see it and accidentally colliding with it.
Brunswick drivers may think that they are not in danger, but they are mistaken.
Moose collisions do happen in Brunswick. Rick Desjardins, commander of the Brunswick Police Department's Patrol Division, said that just last week, a moose was hit and killed on Pleasant Street.
Professor of Biology Nat Wheelwright said that he has seen dozens of moose in the Brunswick area, including one in his yard.
"If you go out into the woods in northwestern Brunswick and you walk a mile in a straight line, you'll see moose tracks," he said.
According to Director of Security Randy Nichols, moose tend to be more active during their mating season in the fall, but they can appear on roads in Maine at any time of the year.
Nichols said that the vast majority of moose crashes occur at night when moose are more active as well as harder to see, even with headlights.
"The moose coat is very dark black, and the eyes don't light up as well as deer eyes do," said Nichols. "Moose tend to be so tall that the beams of light don't hit the eyes directly."
Wheelwright added that while "people think of [moose] as brown like a deer," their coats are actually much darker than that, making them harder to see at night.
Desjardins said that moose are "almost impossible to see in some cases."
In addition, Nichols said that "moose often tend to just stand in the middle of the road." Often, they are trying to get way from bugs, or they are attracted to the salt on the roadway. Consequently, when a driver encounters a moose on the road, it can be the worst case scenario.
"Many of the moose accidents occur with a stationary moose just broadside in the road," said Nichols. "That's how you don't want to hit a moose."
Desjardins added that the fatal accidents that he has seen were a result of the car hitting the moose broadside.
"When they are struck, the cars drive under their legs, so the body of the moose is impacted into the windshield," he said.
In some cases, drivers can be required to act fast to avoid a moose in the road. Since most driver fatalities occur when the weight of the moose falls onto the windshield or roof, drivers should avoid hitting the moose broadside at all costs.
"If you do run into a situation where you have to take very quick, evasive action, hit the brakes very, very hard, just to slow yourself down," said Nichols. Then, "let up off the brake and try to steer around the moose."
"If you can't avoid the moose altogether, at least try to hit the moose at an angle," said Nichols. "The physics involved will throw the moose off to the side of the vehicle."
Nichols said that best way to avoid a moose crash is to slow down, especially at night. Drivers should also use their high beams whenever it is safe to do so, scanning the motorway ahead of them at all times.
"You never want to get into a situation where you're oblivious to what could be ahead of you in the roadway," Nichols said.
In addition to always being alert, drivers should pay close attention to moose warning signs around them. According to Desjardins, the Department of Transportation tries to sign areas in which moose are frequently seen. Because moose behavior patterns are fairly consistent, "the signs really do mean something."
"Those signs are really there for a reason, not just a general warning," he said.
Moose, according to Nichols, are "really the most dangerous animal in Maine to hit with a vehicle...especially if you have high speed involved." Though most moose crashes result in injury, driver fatalities do occur.
Many Bowdoin students said that although they were aware that moose might appear on the roads around campus, they were not overly concerned.
"It's a worry, but people usually hit deer," said Eric Reid '10.
Desjardins said that statewide, "only about 15 percent of the collisions with animals are moose-related," whereas the current statewide level for deer is 83 percent.
Alaska native Sarah Glaser '11 is accustomed to seeing moose back home. She said that she sees moose almost every day, and if not, at least once a week.
"In the summer there's marshes along the road to school, and they'll come down and hang out in the lily pad ponds," said Glaser. She also sees moose walking by the road in the winter months, as it can be hard for moose to maneuver in the snow drifts.
Glaser said that her father's truck once collided with a moose, and though her father was not harmed, there was significant damage done to the truck.
"The car was a massive cab pickup and it hit the side of his car," she said. "The car wasn't totaled...it had a huge dent in it and the door kind of crumpled."
Though drivers may escape the crash with only injuries, the moose are usually not so lucky.
"Depending on the crash, I've seen moose walk away," said Desjardins. "I've seen cars completely destroyed, and the moose has relatively minor injuries."
But, he said, "Typically, they are killed."
"Ninety percent of the time, the moose dies in the crash," added Nichols.
According to Glaser, Alaska has an unique way of dealing with moose fatalities, highlighting the silver lining of an otherwise sad event.
"They have a road kill list in Alaska," she said. "Troopers will call each of the families on the road kill list in the middle of the night and tell them that their moose is 40 miles up the road."
One moose usually provides enough meat to last a family a year or two, Glaser said.
"You couldn't ask for anything more organic and natural," she added.
"They taste like a more delicious beef," said Claudia Hartley '10. "Road kill moose are good eatin'."