What does roadkill mean?
The term “roadkill” refers to all animals that are killed by traffic. The German term Wildunfall is too limited as a translation as it generally refers only to larger mammals and occasionally birds. This is also used in official statistics – data on animals killed in traffic is gathered only as “huntable wildlife”. Data on all other types of animals, including endangered species, such as amphibians, is lacking.
What is the relevance of roadkill?
Roads cut into the habitats of many types of animals. Ecology refers to this phenomenon as habitat fragmentation. In terms of human habitat, the equivalent of this would be, for example, the link between the kitchen and living room being split by a street. Animals cross roads when looking for food and mates (in autumn, deer cross considerable distances in the search for a mate), for example, or when moving from winter grounds to summer grounds (e.g. toads on their spring migrations). Therefore, animals that go on this sort of migration are particularly often at risk of becoming roadkill.
Roadkill is also relevant for people as animals on the motorway pose a danger for drivers and are also a significant ethical concern. It is not only collisions with large wild animals like deer and boar, etc. that cause physical injury and property damage every year, small animals like hedgehogs and toads can also cause damage because accidents are frequently caused by obstacle avoiding and braking manoeuvres.
What are the goals of the Roadkill project?
Our clear goal is to reduce the number of roadkill instances as far as possible and to do so, we are looking into the causes for roadkill.
The first step in this is gaining an overview of the number, extent and distribution of roadkill. By gathering many separate items of data into one large data set, it becomes possible to determine precisely in which conditions (weather, time, etc.), in which locations (forest, meadow, local area, etc.) and on which streets animals become victims of roadkill, as well as which animals are affected.
In addition to answering this scientific problem, it allows us to identify potential “hotspots”, which are particular areas where animals are often killed on the roads. In the future, we will try to reduce these hotspots through collaboration with authorities, NGOs and municipalities.
Furthermore, we see here an opportunity to warn drivers about roadkill using modern means of communication, with pinpoint accuracy and depending on the season and time of day. In the same way that navigation tools and smartphones give warnings of speed traps, it could also be possible to provide alerts of trouble spots on sections of road where there are particularly high numbers of roadkill incidents.
Above all, the Roadkill project should raise awareness among all participants.
How can you take part?
Download the app and take part!
The apps for the Roadkill project, which operate on the SPOTTERON citizen science app system, are free for Android and iOS: