7 minute read
Unfortunately, roadkill is often a side effect of driving in Australia. This poses not only a risk to the animal but also to the people or vehicle that it collides with.
It should come as no surprise that each year thousands of road crashes occur due to our wildlife. These can be for a number of reasons, but is mainly due to people either colliding with the animal or taking dangerous evasive measures to avoid hitting them.
It could almost be classified as a source of Aussie pride regarding how vicious and solid our unassuming wombats can be. There are plenty of stories out there of people having not seen one crossing the road and the little guy has written off the car, which is honestly impressive for something that’s the size of a medium dog.
Despite this, wombats don’t pose the biggest wildlife risk to drivers on the roads. According to AAMI, kangaroos make up over 80% of all claims involving an animal. Part of this could be due to their population numbers, while another aspect is that kangaroos are known for moving over larger spaces, and unfortunately for jumping out at cars, making them particularly difficult to avoid.
So, what can we do to reduce our risk of hitting an animal?
- Pay attention to your surroundings, our wildlife is notorious for jaywalking.
- Take heed of the road signs indicating that animals are active in that area. Slow down when you see them and if you have a passenger ask them to keep an eye out for animals too.
- Further, if you do happen to see an animal, it’s more than likely that others are about. Even if there have been no road signs indicating wildlife activity, it is still best to slow down a bit and be aware of the increased likelihood of encountering some of our native creatures.
- Be aware of the time of day. Dusk and dawn are when most of our native wildlife are active and when many of these incidents happen. So, if you are going through a bushy area at these times, it never hurts to hit the brakes a little and to be extra vigilant.
If there is an animal on the road, and not much traffic, a honk of the horn can often be enough to get them moving. Though do be aware that this could startle other drivers and should be used with discretion.
- If an animal is in your path and you can’t break, do not swerve. We know that it can be instinct to do so, but it is more dangerous for you and the traffic around you if you do. Unfortunately, in these incidents it is safer to hit the animal.
Remember this isn’t just to protect the wildlife, but to protect you as well.
What to do if you do happen to hit something?
1. Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, then ensure there has been no damage to your vehicle that would make it dangerous to drive.
2. From there, if it is safe, go back to where you struck the animal and pull off to the side of the road, put on your hazard lights, try and move it off the road, and asses the animal’s welfare.
If the animal is alive do not approach it unless you have some kind of protective gear. Wild and injured animals can act in violent and unpredictable manners. For example, if you’ve hit a bird, a towel and a good pair of gloves should do the trick, but if it’s a kangaroo, probably best to wait for the professionals.
Avoid touching or coming close to the animal unless necessary. Because just like us they do not find being petted by a stranger comforting.
If the animal is causing a traffic hazard and cannot be safely moved call 000 to alert them before calling any wildlife services.
If it is dead, move it off the road so that it does not pose a hazard to other drivers. This is important even if it is something small because they can often attract scavenger animals that then pose a hazard.
3. If it has a pouch, such as a kangaroo or wombat, check to ensure there isn’t any young. If there is, leave it in the pouch and call a wildlife service (listed below) and they will tell you the best way to proceed from there. If you have spray paint (or anything really) handy in which you can mark a large visible X on the animal, it will prevent other people from stopping to check the pouch, because it indicates that someone else has already done so.
If you look as you drive around, you will notice animals on the side of the road that have been marked.
4. Once your initial assessment is done and the animal is in a safe spot (if possible) call a wildlife service and inform them of what is going on, it is best if you already have some idea of your location. Remember they are not judging you, they only care about what is best for the animal, so be honest with any information you can provide.
If the animal hit has already taken off, you still need to call a wildlife service. There is a very good chance that the animal is injured and in pain and someone needs to be aware so that they can find them.
It can seem like a lot and be overwhelming, but for the most part it boils down to being vigilant, cautious, and deferring to an expert for anything you don’t have experience with.
Now if you want to be extra prepared you can create a little kit to keep in your car. A box, an old towel, a good pair of gloves, (and maybe a can of spray paint if you want to start checking pouches) is all that you really need.
Always remember to consider your safety and the safety of others before taking these steps. This means not entering oncoming traffic, approaching potentially venomous creatures, or driving in a dangerous manner.
Most of our wildlife is unique to Australia, which means there are only us here to protect it. It may not always be possible to do so, but it never hurts to do what you can because it might just save a life, human or otherwise.
Victoria: Wildlife VIC – (03) 8400 7300 or online
New South Wales: WIRES – 1300 094 737 or online
South Australia: Fauna Rescue South Australia inc. – (08) 8289 0896
Western Australia: Wildcare Helpline – (08) 9474 9055
Northern Territory: Wildcare inc. – 0408 885 341
Australian Capital Territory: ACT Wildlife – 0432 300 033
Queensland: RSPCA Queensland – 1300 264 625
Tasmania: Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – 0447 264 625
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