Most of the roads in Finland are near the forest, therefore animals such as elks, deers, arctic fox might come out occasionally. We would like to introduce elks and deers in particular and warn everyone, especially when driving or cycling in the dusk or before sunrise near the forests where their sudden appearance might causes a dangerous collision.
What is an elk?
Elk is hirvi in the Finnish language. It is also known as moose and belongs from the family of deers. There are several different types of deers in Finland, poro, a mountain reindeer known as the reindeer of Christmas and also smaller ones like the well-known bambi reindeer called valkohäntäpeura. However, the elk is the largest of all deers, almost as big as a horse, with big horns and weighting about 600 kg. The number of elk and deers reaches almost 100,000 in Finland and they can be seen almost anywhere. Elks and deers are shot by licensed-hunters and hunting season is from the beginning of September to the middle of January. 20,000 elks and deers are reduced yearly because of the rarity of the natural predators. This is why it's important to be careful this time of the year.
Is there a need to be worried about it?
Driving in Finland is safe, traffic is calm, and drivers follow traffic rules. The highest speed limit is 120km/h in the motorway. It's good to be aware and be cautious, but no need to panic and worry too much. The Finnish Road Safety Council- Liikkenneturva reported about 1824 deer accidents on Finnish roads in 2017 and the damage costed 63,5M Eur. It also causes injures of around 146 people every year.
What to do to avoid accidents if moose is visible on the road?
Autumn is usually the darkest months of the year. The Finnish Road Safety Council LIIKENNETURVA advices to be careful on roads and areas where the elk fencing ends, because the animals crosses roads in specific locations. There are also elk warning signs in these roads so it will be hard to miss them especially, the months when elk move most are October-November and May-June. In the spring, drivers must be more careful, since the calves (baby elk) have just been weaned and not dependent on their mothers anymore. Therefore, they don’t know well how to move on their own and they might come to the road in places when least expected.
Adhere to the speed limits and follow road signs. Reduce your speed and observe both sides and if the elk is on the road or when it's running towards the road, try to pass it from the back. In cases of accidents, contact 112 to inform the police and if there are casualties. Help people in need and try to warn other drivers by putting a warning sign in a visible place.
Moose are friendly animals as well
There's no need to get too scared of elks in Finland, but it's wise to know them, especially if driving regularly by car to work. Elks and deers get used to people if they are held captive. They are sensitive animals, friendly and would let themselves easily be petted by visitors as they love to make friends. There are also places where one can get in touch and see elks such as Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland or at some moose manors (hirvikartano).