Tasmania has the dubious distinction of being the ‘roadkill capital of the world’ and never is this more evident than in summer. Not only can wildlife-vehicle collisions significantly reduce species population and cause declination in biodiversity, but they can also cause considerable damage to vehicles and potential injuries to their occupants. In 2019 one Australian insurance company reported 1039 claims related to wildlife-vehicle collisions in the month of May alone.
With the aim of reducing the prevalence of wildlife causalities on our roads, The Tamar Valley Wildlife: Roadkill Initiative (TVWRI) has been working as a branch of Wildcare Tasmania since 2020. The TVWRI operates in the Tamar Valley region, implementing proven mitigation strategies and developing novel innovations to build and strengthen policies and guidelines to reduce roadkill. These strategies include a focus on driver education, participation in learning groups, as well as ongoing research.
The TVWRI describes late spring and summer as being “linked to more active periods associated with foraging, reproduction, and dispersion activity,” and these periods are when roadkill numbers are at their highest. “This is the time when young are venturing away from their parents. Some bask in the warmth of road surfaces. A New Zealand study revealed that possum roadkill from November – March was double that occurring in winter.”
As summer progresses and the prevalence of roadkill becomes more apparent, the TVWRI has compiled a list of measures that drivers can implement to decrease the likelihood of harming wildlife on our roads:
1. The most important thing you can do is reduce your speed in wildlife zones, especially between dawn and dusk. Reducing your speed by 20 kph will reduce the chance of impact by 50%. You will also have a better chance of avoiding a collision and the animal will have more time to move away.
2. Don’t throw rubbish including food on the road it will entice animals, increasing the risk of roadkill.
3. Use your horn.
4. Watch for features like steep banks that can cut off an animal’s escape.
5. Keep your eyes on the side of the road for signs of wildlife; it will also keep you alert.
6. Attach a sonic warning device to your car.
7. Remember that summer is when pouch young are venturing away from parents; be extra alert.
8. Also be aware that wildlife will be attracted on roads that run close to or cross rivers.
But what to do if you come across injured wildlife? The TVWRI suggests that, as Tasmania is a state that does have a high incidence of wildlife injury “it’s not a bad idea to carry a pouch in the boot of your car. The pouch should be large enough to hold a baby animal. A couple of warm old towels, a couple of pairs of disposable gloves, and an anti-bacterial spray.” If you do see an animal that has been hit and it is safe to pull over “stop and see if the animal is still alive or, if it is a female, check to see if there are live babies in its pouch or nearby. If there are babies, put them in the pouch you are carrying and wrap them warmly.” It is then advised that you contact Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, an organisation committed to conserving Tasmanian wildlife. “Their phones are monitored 24/7 and they will tell you what to do. Please remember if you are handling adult animals, they are wild, and may act aggressively.”
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary can be contacted 24 hours on 0447947217 or on 03 6268 1184 during business hours.
The Tamar Valley Wildlife: Roadkill Initiative can be found via the Wildcare website at wildcaretas.org.au, via their facebook page, or contacted directly at email@example.com