VICTORIA – A Lake Cowichan woman is dead and two others are in serious condition after two overnight collisions involving elk near Lake Cowichan.

The first crash happened at approximately 8 p.m. on Highway 18 between Duncan and Lake Cowichan.

Police say the two-vehicle, head-on crash was caused by one vehicle attempting to avoid hitting an elk on the highway. The vehicle struck the elk and then struck an oncoming vehicle.

One woman was found dead at the scene. One man and one woman were air-lifted to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The second crash happened at approximately 7 a.m. Wednesday, when police say another driver struck an elk on Highway 18 near Lake Cowichan. In this case, the driver walked away with only minor injuries.

"I would like to remind motorists to drive defensively, slow down and leave plenty of distance from the next vehicle to allow the best chance to see wildlife," said RCMP Sgt. Trevor Busch in a release Wednesday.

The BC Coroners Service is still investigating the fatal crash.

A petition asking ICBC and the B.C. government to construct wildlife barriers along Highway 18 had garnered nearly 800 signatures by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

"Encounters with large wildlife are a daily occurrence on this treacherous stretch of highway," wrote the petition's creator.

"This has gone on for too long. How many more fatalities does there need to be. We ask you to fix this immediately before more loved ones are lost." 

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Scott Norris told CTV News that collisions involving elk in the area are increasingly common as the elk population has grown.

"On Highway 18, in particular, it's at least once a month, if not more, for elk accidents," Norris said. 

Unfortunately, due to the size of the animals, the accidents can lead to fatalities or significant injuries.

"An animal that's 500 to 700 pounds hit by a car at high speed is going to be a significant impact," he said, adding that fencing off the highway would be difficult and an imperfect solution.

"Fencing only works in certain areas," he said. "Highway 18 here, I don't know if fencing would be a solution – it's too busy of a road with too many access points."

Norris added that wildlife fencing would also interfere with the elk's natural migration corridors.