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NNSL Photo

The NWT Department of Transportation is warning motorists to beware of buffalo on the highways. The situation is particularly dangerous in the fall as days grow shorter. - NNSL file photo

Buffalo alert

GNWT warns motorists after two crashes last week

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Sep 09/02) - The Department of Transportation is launching a safety awareness campaign to warn drivers of bison on NWT highways after two collisions involving the animals occurred last week near Fort Providence.

A Chevrolet Suburban struck two bison late last Sunday and a tractor-trailer hit another two bison Monday night. According to RCMP Cpl. Marc Coulombe from Fort Providence, three of the buffalo were killed on impact, while one struck Sunday night had to be put down.

Neither driver was injured.

Coulombe said the Suburban belonged to a Fort Providence resident. He estimated damage to the vehicle to be about $10,000.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Alfred Artman, was returning to Edmonton from Yellowknife after delivering concrete blocks for the city's new arena. He hit the bison at about 11:30 p.m., one kilometre from the ferry crossing at the Mackenzie River.

As of last Thursday, he was still in Fort Providence waiting for his truck to be repaired so he could continue his trip. He estimated the eventual repair bill will cost his employer $20,000.

"He came out of the ditch," said Artman, who was unaware that he had also struck a second buffalo. "I didn't even see him. He bought it and my truck bought it."

Art Barnes, South Slave regional superintendent for the Department of Transportation, said collisions with buffalo are more common during the fall, particularly as the days grow short.

DOT reported 89 collisions with vehicles and bison between 1989 and 2001. Twenty-three people were injured as a result. The most troublesome stretches of road are on Highway 3 from Fort Providence to Rae-Edzo and on Highway 5 from Fort Smith to the Nyarling River.

"The problem is some of our highways are quite long, and especially if you're travelling in the dark you can get hypnotized by the whole monotony of the highway," said Barnes.

"If you're a little tired, and you get into that hypnotic state, and you pop over a little hill and there's a herd of buffalo, your attentiveness and reaction time is going to be slowed enough that you won't be able to stop in time."

DOT plans to begin issuing warnings this week through several media organizations this week to remind drivers of the dangers they could be facing when heading out onto the highway. They will also be erecting more warning signs where buffalo are commonly seen by the road.