GREAT FALLS — It's nearly impossible to take a Montana road trip without seeing animals next to the road. Now, drivers are being asked to record wildlife sightings to help prevent or mitigate collisions with vehicles.
A new app called Wildlife Xing helps people track what they saw and where it was. The app asks users to track all around the state but have an emphasis on the Hi-Line between Shelby and Glasgow. The app is free to download and includes observation tools such as how to identify certain animals.
Jason Tibballs is a truck driver that's spent lots of time and miles on that stretch Hi-Line and it doesn't take long for him to spot a deer.
"Probably every time we got out, we see quite a few of them on the side of the road," Tibballs said. "While on the busy season, we go probably four days, five days a week. So I think that'd be great. It would help us do our jobs without hitting deer. I've hit a couple of deer with my truck and that's cost a lot. It would be great for the trucking community. In 17 years of driving I've probably hit four. It'd be a great help."
For people that drive the Hi-Line frequently, it is a tool for them to be able to submit more data to the app and to prevent further collisions.
When it comes to car crashes involving wildlife, Montana is near the top of that list. According to State Farm, the Treasure State is #2 in the country in terms of likeliness to hit an animal on the road.
They have Montana at a 1 in 44 chance, behind West Virginia, at a 1 in 35 chance.
"Listening to other homeowners, the deer population is just out of control right now," said State Farm agent Pam Hansen Alfred. "I would say that the majority of our claims this time of year especially, are animal collisions, probably more so. Even the people running into each other. I think our frequency of animal collisions is way up."
Seeing deer on the highway is almost inevitable in Montana. Having an app like this to track wildlife and where they're moving could help prevent a major collision.