Wildlife Roadkill: What
YOU Can Do
Wildlife Roadkill is anything you see squash on the road.
It’s on the rise to become a major threat to wild animals,
and a threat most of us are probably part of – thus a threat we can all help
An Australian icon victim of the road... Photo: Lee Curtis, ataglance.com.au
An Emerging Threat to Wild Animals
If you are
not worried about the impact of roadkill on wild animals, that’s just because
you don’t know about it!
- Millions of vertebrate animals become roadkill every
week in the US alone.
- US roads
(and US drivers!) kill more wild animals than laboratory animal researchers and
game hunters kill put together.
- Some wild species are now more threatened by road collisions than by habitat loss (Cariboo, Florida
- Roadkill is a serious threat for 21 US endangered or threatened species (bighorn sheep,
ocelot, red wolves, desert tortoises, American crocodiles…)
- Road deaths are now considered a threat just like climate
change, deforestation or pollution.
- Roadkill is that bad it can even create local extinctions
of wild species otherwise considered common.
- Car collision is such a threat to wildlife that a whole new
science has emerged: “Road Ecology” that studies the impacts of roads on wild
“We treat the attrition of [wildlife] lives on the road like the attrition of lives in war:
horrifying, unavoidable, justified.”
A collision between a vehicle and a wild animal is not good
for humans either.
In the USA alone:
- 200 humans lose their life to deer collision alone each year.
- The number of injuries caused to humans from a wildlife
impact is in the tens of thousands.
- Financially, damages in vehicle amounts to $3.6 billion a
- More than 90 % of collisions with large wild animals (size
of a deer to an elk) cause damage to the car or truck involved.
Why Did the Chicken Crossed the Road?
I hear so many people saying “stupid [deer/caribou/fox/kangaroo/any
living animal on Earth], why did it just cross now, when I arrived?”
The answers to that are many – and don’t include animal
- It didn’t cross just now while your car was arriving at the
scene, there have been cars all day long and you happened to be the car present
when the wild animal finally crossed.
- Wild animals have evolved and lived with many predators for
a long long time, but cars are only a very recent predator. Wild animals have
not evolved a gut fear and appropriate survival technique for cars – yet.
- Cars are very effective predators: if the animal is killed
at first encounter, it cannot learn to avoid cars. There is no second chance.
- Cars have speed with almost no match in the wild, and that
means things happen lots quicker than what animals are used to.
- Think of how long it takes for a kid to be a 100% road safe.
Apparently research has shown that until they reach around 8 years old, kids
are still at risk of going across the road without looking. And this is with
you saying about a million (billion? Trillion??) times: “Watch out for cars!”
and for arguably one of the smartest brain on the planet.
- Adult humans still get killed crossing roads.
- No one warn wildlife to not cross the road. No one explains
to them the principles of what a road is, where it’s safe and where it’s not,
which ways cars are coming from, etc.
In summary, wildlife confronted to our roads and cars is the
equivalent of you being thrown on an alien planet where objects move quicker
than you ever seen, in all directions of space, with no apparent rules and where
your first collision with one object might be your last.
Not fun, hey?
Roadkill: How to Avoid it?
A wildlife collision is often deadly for the animal and
dangerous or expensive for you. It’s better for everyone involved to avoid it!
It’s start simply, by behaving safely on the road.
Drive carefully and pay attention to the roadsides, where wild
animals might be on the look for a crossing.
Drive extra carefully (slowly if you can) at dawn and dusk,
where more wild animals are out and about.
Respect wildlife crossings! If signs have been deployed in a
particular spot, it’s because there have been years and years of data on
roadkill accumulated! You can trust them!
Some wild animals might actually run on the side of the road
for a little while. Don’t overtake them. They are scared and confused and might
jump in front of your car.
Don’t throw food from your car (sometimes you might throw
some biodegradable food from your car, I’m sure you would never litter anyway!).
Food on the edge of the road can attract wildlife from the bush. They can stay
for a little while on the edge of the road, and then become more at risk of a
If you can, remove dead animals from the road. Smelly carcasses
can attract meat eaters like birds of prey, which can in turn become victims of
cars. Put your safety first always, only remove them if safe.
Roadkill: How to Be Prepared?
If you only do one thing, please do this, and now: look for and enter the number of your local Wildlife
Rescue service in your mobile phone.
Because the day you will hit an animal, or find one injured
on the side of the road the last thing you want to do is to spend half an hour
looking for someone who can help.
You will be stressed, and the animal will be in pain. You
will want help, and you will want help quick.
Another good idea is to keep a wildlife emergency toolbox in your car, containing:
- A towel and gloves: to capture the wild animals safely - for
him and you!
- A cardboard box and a pillow case: to contain the injured
animal in a safe and dark spot – at least until the Wildlife Rescue arrives.
Roadkill: What if it Does Happen to You?
You just hit a wild animal or spotted an animal on the side
of the road, what should you do?
- Slowly and safely stop the car on the side of the road.
Never put yourself at risk.
- If there is a Wildlife Rescue in your area, call or get
someone in the car to call them when you yourself go attend the victim.
- If you don’t have their number because you didn’t read the “how
to be prepared” section above, look for it on your smart-phone or ring a friend
who has access to internet or the yellow pages. Find the bloody number quick!
- If you are now on the phone with the Wildlife Rescue, you are in the best hands
possible, follow their instructions.
- If you cannot find the Wildlife Rescue or if your area doesn’t
have a one, you will need to transport the wild animal yourself to someone that
can help. Your best bet is the local vet.
Australian road sign near a speed bump created to protect a large bird called Cassowary. A little bit of humour for a very dark topic...
If the animal is dead
Put your gloves (you never know if it
carries a transmissible disease, not to mention fleas and ticks) and remove it
as far from the road as you can (more than 2m. OK, you don’t need to go 10km
Remark: if you are in Australia, if the roadkill is a marsupial,
check the pouch for the presence of a pouch young . Many pouch young
survive even though their mum is dead...
If the animal is injured
An injured animal will be stressed and in pain: it can bite and scratch you. Don’t take it personally - it doesn’t know you want to help - but be prepared.
- So if the animal is alive, use your gloves or towel to pick it
up (or any clothes if you were not prepared and didn’t have a wildlife emergency toolbox in your car. You
need to check the “be prepared” section above!).
Sometimes it helps to give the
animal something to bite first (towel, glove), then pick it up while its teeth are busy.
Again, use your judgment and don’t put yourself at risk.
- Put the
animal in a well-ventilated cardboard box with a comfty towel at the bottom.
- Keep the
animal quiet, warm and in the dark.
- Don’t create any more stress for your injured patient: loud noises, unnecessary movements of the box, attention from pets or young children.
handle the injured animal more than the strict minimum. Don’t stroke or pet it
(you don’t know where it’s hurt).
case: if you have a young orphan, they usually appreciate animal warmth: you
can wrap them up and put them inside your clothing.
- The animal is in shock and hurt: it doesn’t need food or water (and it could be bad for it to have some).
If you have
to transport the wild animal yourself to a vet or a carer:
- Ensure the
cardboard box is well-ventilated and secure (you don’t want the box and the
animal being thrown around in the car at each turn).
- Try to keep
the inside of the car to a comfortable temperature (around 26 degrees Celsius),
use the heater or the Air Con if necessary.
being quiet, don’t forget to stop the car radio!
"I brake for snake!"
A beautiful python trying to make it alive across the road...
Wildlife death on our road is an outbreak...
The good news
is: we are the cure!
Be careful and attentive while driving and always be
prepared for a wildlife emergency on the road: simple and life saving steps for
our wild animals.
If you want to do more: become a wildlife rescuer or carer.