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 reducing.


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!

Californians!

You can help wildlife by reporting interactions with wild animals on the road through the California Roadkill Observation System!

The facts:

  • 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 panthers...)
  • 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 animals.

“We treat the attrition of [wildlife] lives on the road like the attrition of lives in war:

horrifying, unavoidable, justified.”

Barry Lopez, Apologia

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 year.
  • 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?

wildlife-crossing-sign

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 stupidity:

  • 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 car encounter.

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.


wildlife-crossing-sign2

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.

Why?

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.
road_sign

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 either!)


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.
  • Don’t handle the injured animal more than the strict minimum. Don’t stroke or pet it (you don’t know where it’s hurt).

A special 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).


And finally...

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.
  • Continue 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.