PORTLAND (AP) – Maine’s moose are on the loose and roaming the roads, making this year particularly hazardous for drivers.

Four moose-related fatalies have been reported since June, making this the deadlist year since 1998 when 5 people were killed.

“They literally come out of nowhere at night,” said state police spokesperson Steve McCausland. “Despite their size, they’re virtually invisible at night because of their coloring.”

Maine’s cold, wet spring and late-breaking summer means that more moose are venturing out to the roadside this month, one of the state’s heaviest travel times. Moose like to leave the woods to escape bugs and munch on salty plants by the roadside.

Moose are also migrating from northern Maine into southern and western parts of the state, where clearing for development creates the open area and plant life they prefer.

All the state’s moose-related deaths have occurred since June 6. Two have been motorcyclists.

The last fatality was on Tuesday, when a moose darted into the traffic lane of Route 26 in Poland, colliding with a Harley Davidson motorcycle driven by Lawrence E. Smith, 65, of Windham, who died at the scene.

Smith’s death was the second fatal moose collision this week. On Monday, Norman Thibodeau of Madawaska died from injuries he suffered when his Ford Mustang convertible struck a moose.

Smith’s accident wasn’t the only moose crash in Poland on Tuesday. An earlier collision on Lewiston Junction Road injured a driver, but not seriously.

On June 6 a motorist was killed on Route 95 in North Lincoln, and on June 20 a motorcyclist was killed in Van Buren.

Maine’s moose population declined enough last year that the state issued 415 fewer permits for the annual hunt, which takes place over two weeks in September and October. The hunt, in which about 2,400 animals are killed each year, is only allowed north of Bangor, though more moose are being spotted in southern parts of the state.

Officials say drivers throughout the state should pay attention to moose crossing signs, which are posted in areas the animals are known to live.

People driving at night are advised to wear their seat belts and use the high beam of headlights when appropriate in order to illuminate the animal’s eyes.

McCausland said if a collision is imminent, a driver should try to avoid hitting the moose head on and swerve to the left or right to minimize the moose’s impact on the passenger compartment.

“It’s a split-section decision. If you hit it (sideways), you will clip it. Try not to hit it dead on,” he said.


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