NB: Please be aware that some of the images and information on this page may be distressing to some readers.
We can all do something about the amount of roadkill on our roads, wherever you are in Australia or elsewhere in the world.
By slowing down you can give yourself time to see and react and avoid wildlife on our roads. You need to be going at less than 80 km per hour to give yourself time to spot, react and avoid most Australian wildlife. Some animals do not show up well against the road – such as wombats, whose poor hearing and eyesight often results in them turning and running back in front of cars.
See the study on night time driver detection distances.
What to do
If you see a dead animal, pull it well off the road ONLY if it is safe to do so. Park on the side of the road with your hazard lights on so cars behind you will be aware something is happening. This means we don’t get secondary roadkill from the various birds and animals that consume the carcass, or the well-meaning person removing it from the road! Cars will often hit scavenging animals: for example, raptors take a bit of time to take flight again and sometimes run into cars or fences; magpies and other carnivorous birds get caught in car slip streams and get dashed against the ground, trees or fences; and lizards like goannas are often hit as they tug at that tasty morsel.
If I cannot remove it completely from the road verge, I
always put the animal’s legs in the air to show it’s been checked for a joey, as they rarely die like this. Some people mark roadkill with spray paint in various ways. But will this be toxic to scavengers? There is a valid point in leaving the animal within sight of cars to remind drivers to slow down, but I prefer to remove it altogether.
When lifting or dragging roadkill off the road take care to avoid back injuries, and avoid injuring any live baby joeys in pouch (joey removal instructions below). Always wash your hands with soap and water afterwards, or use a waterless sanitiser. I keep a pump pack and handtowel in the driver’s side door along with disposable gloves for searching in messy pouches.
Who to call
If the animal is still alive and/or has a joey in the pouch, contact a wildlife group. In wildlife hotspots there are often roadside signs with contact details for local wildlife groups. If you ring most 24-hour wildlife services in your state, they will know who to contact to help you if they can’t help you themselves. Also, the local 24-hour vet will know who to contact and in most states of Australia will treat wildlife for free, so you can leave the animal with them and it will be treated and given to a local carer. Please ensure you tell them where you found the animal so it can be rehabilitated and returned to its home range.
I always have a strong hessian sack in the car, as well as smaller bags for joeys – hessian allows the animal to breathe – and I know how to try and catch injured animals. But injured wildlife can pose a significant risk, especially larger animals – a kick in the stomach by a large kangaroo could do you some real damage. So contact your local wildlife group for help. If someone can’t stay at the scene, tie a plastic bag or something to a tree or fence so the spot can be easily identified to the wildlife carer.
If you can transport injured animals to a vet, great – but don’t get hurt in the process. Once you have covered the animal’s eyes it often relaxes as it feels less threatened.
Removal of joey from a pouch
After moving the animal and yourself off the road, you can check the pouch (disposable gloves are great for this).
- You need to feel all around in the pouch as some animals, such as wombats, have backwards facing pouches.
- If the joey IS NOT attached to the teat you can carefully remove it, place it in a hanky or teatowel, and get it to slowly warm up against your body – under your clothes is the best place.
- If the pouch is too tight to get Joey out, you can cut the pouch (as the mother is dead there will be no blood). The scissors on a swiss army knife will get through a tough wombat pouch, just protect the joey with your hand.
- If joey is still attached to the teat DO NOT PULL OFF, as you can easily damage the mouth of the joey and he will have to be euthanased. Simply cut the teat off the mother (there won’t be any blood) and leave in the joey’s mouth.
- NEVER give any food or water to a joey: they must be fully warmed and fed correctly so as not to ingest liquid into the lungs which will often then be fatal. (Cow’s milk is not for native wildlife!)
- Joeys can appear dead as they have gone into a torpor due to their cold body temperature, however once SLOWLY warmed they can survive.
- I have retrieved joeys who have survived even from bloated maggot-infested 3-day old bodies, so always check the pouch. Look around for a joey if the pouch is stretched, and there is a long teat (looks like a flattened white worm) – they could be nearby.
- Wildlife carers can often be called out for ‘baby twins’ which usually turn out to be the testicles of a male animal. A pouch is furred like the stomach of the animal and has an obvious opening!
The most important thing is to warm them up slowly, just to
your body temperature and no hotter. Then you can get help. All wildlife rescue services will be able to advise you what to do. Be prepared: put the number of your local wildlife group in your phone. If you’re stuck I’m always happy to take calls 24 hrs and can give you a local wildlife group’s number as well as advice till it can get to a carer.
Tel: 0407 786 115 or ( if outside NSW 02) 4843 5933.
A joey this size can be raised and released by a wildlife carer. This shows the position of the pouch, although you would not find this sized joey hanging out of the pouch.
Wombats: Never put an adult wombat loose in a car – they are strong and have a powerful bite, which is how they defend themselves. It’s best to put them in a mail bag or hessian sack, but most people don’t carry something like this. If nothing else, wrap them papoose-style in a blanket or large towel and hold them down so they don’t get out – but this is not an easy task without getting bitten. Left loose in your boot, the wombat will trash it, and it will look like you have tipped a compost bin in there. (Believe me I know, I’ve tried when desperate!)
To get a wombat to move off the road you can do a wombat warning and call ‘Tissst! Tissst!’ – that will get them moving!
Kangaroos/Wallabies: These normally run from people and cars even when injured. If you happen to catch an injured kangaroo or wallaby, you can wrap it in a blanket securely and hold it securely. A large bag is preferable, as for a wombat. NEVER chase a roo or wallaby very far as they will get a condition called capture myopothy which will eventually kill them. Leave it to the experts who can use a tranquiliser gun and not stress the animal too much further. See the paper on Myopothy on Dr Anne’s Fowlers site.
Echidnas: Also NEVER put an echidna loose in a car or car boot: they can
burrow in deeply and you might end up dismantling the car to get them out. To move them off the road, if they don’t run off themselves, be quick and carefully roll them over. Then you can slide a car mat under them and take them off the road. NEVER pick them up with a shovel, feet and noses are delicate and can be chopped off. It’s normal for them to blow bubbles. If they have managed to glue themselves to the road, best move away and divert traffic without getting yourselves killed in the process. If injured pick up under the shoulders, their spines although sharp are not too bad. Wrap carefully in a towel or blanket: think of a dim sim and hold the opening securely.
Raptors: Injured birds of prey are very dangerous, their beaks and talons can inflict very nasty injuries. There are special techniques in picking them up. But the easiest would be with a large towel or blanket, throwing it over the bird and wrapping securely (like a dim sim).
Possums & smaller animals: These will also try and bite as, yes, they are wild animals. All can be wrapped in a towel or blanket if that’s all you have. DO NOT pick up injured snakes, they could be venomous – call a wildlife group.
Help in information gathering
Simply by entering any roadkill you have seen or moved off the road on the relevant internet roadkill map you add to the information. By mapping wildlife roadkills you become an integral part in helping discover hotspots, which then allows people to use this information to get Councils and Road authorities to act in some way. There are roadkill mapping programs in many countries around the world if you look.
Roadkill mapping can be used in the following ways, so get your community involved.
- Locals or Councils can mow verges, allowing drivers to see animals and slow down earlier.
- Councils and RTA can put in ‘Wildlife – slow down’ signs, to at least make drivers aware.
- Road speeds can be reduced to 80 or less. (Councils & RTA)
- Various tunnels and bridges over roads can facilitate wildlife crossing.
- Wildlife barrier fencing can help too (see Northern beaches link below).
For more information use these great links:
Wildlife fencing, as the Northern Beaches group in Sydney has done: see their website on how they went about it. http://wildliferoadkill.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=67
Australian Wildlife Carers Network wildlife incident mapping. A wildlife rehab community project.
Tasmanian roadkill hotspots map, with advice to drivers and an ‘app’ for your GPS in Tasmania, and ‘Point of Interest’ locations for car GPS OR SatNav. Free POI files can be downloaded to a vehicle GPS and will alert a driver when high roadkill areas are being approached. Reducing speed to less than 80km/h in these areas is advised. Great site with lots of info.
What’s happening around the world to help prevent so much roadkill.
One of Australia’s leading wildlife Vets Free papers to download as well as various wildlife care manuals and papers for purchase.
Go to our links page for more information.