Roadkill hotspots around the world

Matthew Keogh

May 10, 2021

From Ford’s Model T in 1908 to Tesla’s Model S in 2020, cars have revolutionised transportation. However, they’ve also – unfortunately – put humans and animals on a collision course.

In this article, we reveal some of the most vulnerable animals and accident hotspots in 10 selected countries (based on most cars per capita). We also explore the leading factors that cause roadkill and list actionable ways you can help reduce these collisions.

*Listed countries were chosen based on most cars per capita; minimum population three million.12*The systematic collection of roadkill data (numbers) is not completed in most countries, so we’ve identified ‘hotspots’ for 10 selected countries using reliable sources.

What are the leading causes that contribute to roadkill?

Urbanisation

The landscape has changed. Roads, bridges and tunnels have displaced and impinged upon millions of animals, forcing them to roam into human environments. What’s more, when roads and highways connect cities, they disrupt water and food source routes used by animals for centuries.13

Intentional vehicle-animal collisions

According to a journal article published in the Human Dimensions of Wildlife, motorists (2.7 per cent) intentionally hit animals.14 The Canadian researchers used fake reptiles along with inanimate objects (e.g. soda bottles) to test which drivers will more often hit. Unfortunately, the study found decoy snakes recorded a higher rate of collision. It’s less likely a human would hit a larger animal intentionally, in most cases a mixture of speed, low visibility and animal unpredictability are leading causes.

Delays in roadkill clean up – or no clean up at all

While most states and shires offer roadkill removal, there are still incidences of scavenger animals, like bald eagles in the United States, suffering the same demise as their meal.

The cost of collisions with animals

When a car collides with an animal, it can leave so much more damage than just a few scratches on the bumper. Often, the animal will be injured, or killed. What’s more, the deceased animal may leave behind orphaned offspring with little chance of survival without human intervention.

There is also a human toll in collisions with animals. Drivers and passengers may be injured in crashes, particularly if they collide with a large animal or swerve into the path of other obstacles, e.g. another car. One of the worst regions for fatalities is Ontario, Canada. Five people are killed on average every year in collisions with Cervidae, e.g. deer or caribou.15

The cost of animal-car collisions keeps rising when you consider injuries sustained in these accidents, damage caused to cars – not to mention the cost of roadkill removal by city services.

Get protection with car insurance

Owning a car comes with its risks, like collisions, theft and damage from fire or storms. That’s why you should consider car insurance – to help cover the cost of repairing or replacing your car if the unexcepted happens.

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How are we minimising collisions?

Here are some preventative measures designed to enhance driver safety and protect native wildlife.

Older technology used throughout the years:

  • animal crossings that allow local animals to cross and require drivers to slow down;
  • signage that indicates high-risk areas and speed limit suggestions (e.g. ‘reduce speed by X amount during dusk and dawn’);
  • roadside lighting to deter animals while increasing driver visibility;
  • fencing as an effective solution to keep larger animals away from high-risk areas;
  • table drain management to deter animals from feeding and drinking from roadside water sources; and
  • roadkill removal carried out by city services to prevent scavenger animals from being drawn to the road.

New technology that has recently rolled out or is currently in the works include:

  • underpasses and overpasses in many new infrastructure designs to allow animals safe passageways;
  • plastic reflectors that attach to guideposts to reflect headlights and warn animals off the road;
  • high ropes suspended over roads (attached to poles or trees) to allow climbing animals a safer route;
  • ultrasonic whistles. Animals use sound to warn others out of their territory. These whistles (not audibly detectable to humans) can be attached to vehicles or roadside infrastructure;
  • odour repellents made from a synthetic substance to emulate the smell of canine urine to ward off animals; and
  • electromagnetic motion detectors that are buried and triggered when an animal enters the area; flashing signs linked to the detectors work to alert drivers.

In Australia, the Tasmanian Government released the ‘Roadkill TAS App’, which allows you to report the details of roadkill you encounter (e.g. species and precise location of the deceased animal) to the state government.17 The government then collates this data and deploys preventative measures in high-risk areas.

Other similar apps exist around the world, including Europe.18

Furthermore, researchers at Virginia Tech are refining detection technology, including sensors, both in the vehicle and in road infrastructure.19 The detectors would alert drivers of an animal’s presence in the area.

Organisations like Project Roadkill, coordinated by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, aims to create awareness and reduce the
number of animals killed on roads in Europe.20

While there’s no perfect solution, there’s a real possibility that with the advancement of technology (e.g. motion detectors, autonomous driving), animal roadkill can become a rare sighting in the future.

Seven ways to help avoid a collision with an animal

Whether you’re driving on the motorway, a country road or a residential street, the threat of a collision is ever-present. Use the following techniques to reduce the odds of a vehicle/animal collision:

  1. scan the shoulders of the road and take corners with caution;
  2. reduce speed and be extra wary driving at dawn and dusk, when animal movement tends to increase;
  3. flick your lights and high beam function (when safe) on and off to break the hypnotic ‘deer in a headlights’ trance animals experience;
  4. make a racquet by using your horn to alert animals of your presence;
  5. if a collision is imminent and it’s safe to do so, put your foot on the brake firmly. Do not swerve and remain in your lane; and
  6. don’t litter the roads, as this attracts animals and increases the risk of a collision.
  7. pull over if you’re tired; a powernap or prolonged break can reduce drowsiness.

Source: NSW Government.21 The Humane Society of the United States.22

What should you do if you come across an animal on the road?

Use an animal rescue kit

This type of improvised kit can include dog biscuits to lure reluctant animals off the road, a looped collar to capture dogs or cats, a collapsible carrier (for small animals), a blanket and a list of numbers for veterinarians and animal shelters. Take caution when approaching any type of animal, including dogs which may have rabies.

Call local city services to move the deceased animal

Suppose you accidentally kill an animal or come across a deceased animal on the road. In that case, call your local council or city services so that they can organise the removal safely. Furthermore, removing the animal will deter other animals from being attracted to the area.

Check the area for survivors

As heartbreaking as it is, there may be orphaned babies nearby after a fatality. When the area is safe and clear, check for survivors. Once again, keep a list of numbers for vets and animal shelters to ensure these animals aren’t left abandoned.

Governments around the world have – and will – continue to implement preventative measures to reduce roadkill. However, a large portion of the responsibility remains with drivers – us.

To protect yourself, other road users, wildlife and your car, we encourage you to practice the road safety techniques outlined in this article. Stay alert, reduce speed, and you’ll make the roads a safer place for everybody.

Sources

  1. Kangaroo vehicle collisions on an Australia outback highway. 2006. Accessed August 2020.
  2. ACT Government. ACT Kangaroo management plan. 2010. Accessed August 2020.
  3. Government of Canada. Transport Canada. Exhibit 5.3- Collisions Where a Vehicle Hits an Animal – Canada. 2012. Accessed August 2020.
  4. Project Splatter. Wildlife roadkill map: 2019. 2019. Accessed August 2020.
  5. Phys.org Finnish phone app finds reindeer, helps to avoid roadkill. 2016. Accessed August 2020.
  6. Hagen, R et al. Do roe deer react to wildlife warning reflectors? A test combining a controlled experiment with field observations. European Journal of Wildlife Research. 10.1007/s10344-017-1130-5. 2017.
  7. Canova, L., Balestrieri, A. Long-term monitoring by roadkill counts of mammal populations living in intensively cultivated landscapes. Biodivers Conserv 28, 97–113 (2019).
  8. Dokoa, F A. Kooimanb, A. G. Toxopeusb. Modeling of species geographic distribution for assessing present needs for the ecological networks. Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University (2018).
  9. Périquet S, Roxburgh L, le Roux A and Collinson WJ (2018) Testing the Value of Citizen Science for Roadkill Studies: A Case Study from South Africa. Front. Ecol. Evol. 6:15. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00015
  10. Víctor J. Colino-Rabanal, Salvador J. Peris. Wildlife roadkills: improving knowledge about ungulate distributions? Department of Zoology, Faculty of Biology. Salamanca University, 37071 Salamanca, Spain.
  11. Deer-car collisions increase this time of year. 2011. Accessed August 2020.
  12. Our world in data. Motor vehicles per 1000 inhabitants vs GDP per capita. ?. 2014. Accessed August 2020.
  13. Gilleland, Amanda H., “Human-Wildlife Conflict Across Urbanization Gradients: Spatial, Social, and Ecological Factors” (2010). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.
  14. Paul Ashley, Amanda Kosloski & Scott A. Petrie (2007) Incidence of Intentional Vehicle–Reptile Collisions, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 12:3, 137-143, DOI: 10.1080/10871200701322423
  15. Government of Canada. Transport Canada. Exhibit 5.1- Fatal Collisions Where a Vehicle Hits an Animal – Canada. 2012. Accessed August 2020.
  16. Tasmanian Government. Accessed August 2020.
  17. Tasmanian Government. Roadkill TAS App. 2020. Accessed August 2020.
  18. Spotteron app. 2020. Accessed August 2020.
  19. Mobility Lab. Roadkill: the secret ingredient in improving autonomous-vehicle technology? 2017. Accessed August 2020.
  20. Project Roadkill. 2020.
  21. New South Wales Government. Transport for NSW. Animals on country roads. 2020. Accessed August 2020.
  22. The Humane Society of the United States. How to avoid vehicular collisions with deer. 2020. Accessed August 2020.

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