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Roadkill is an animal or animals that have been struck and killed by motor vehicles. Mammals are the animals most likely to be recorded as roadkill. To reduce the possibility of striking animals some road authorities use signs or create underpasses.


During the early 20th century, roadkill or "flat meats" became a common sight in all industrialized First World nations as they adopted the internal combustion engine and the automobile. Roadkill can be eaten and there are several recipe books dedicated to roadkill. (See Roadkill cuisine)

In Australia, specific actions taken to protect against the variety of animals that can damage vehicles – such as bullbars (usually known in Australia as 'roo bars', in reference to kangaroos) – indicate that the Australian experience has some unique features with road kill.


The Simmons Society was founded by Professor Roger M. Knutson of Luther Collegemarker in Decorahmarker, Iowamarker, USmarker to further studies of road fauna. Professor Knutson also published a book called "Common Animals of Roads, Street, and Highway: A Field Guide To Flattened Fauna".

The number of road fauna present on a given stretch of freeway is said to follow a Poisson distribution. Some researchers believe that lunar phases have an effect on the amount of road kills. Further study is needed to support this hypothesis.

A recent study showed that insects too are prone to a very high risk of roadkill incidence . Research showed interesting patterns in insect/butterfly road kills and relation with the vehicle density. Although the insect community is equally at risk, much of the attention goes to bigger, more charismatic animals.

About 350,000 to 27 million birds are estimated to be killed on European roads each year.

Breakdown by species

In 1993, 25 schools throughout New Englandmarker participated in a roadkill study involving 1,923 animal deaths. By category, the fatalities were:

Extrapolating this data nationwide, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People Newspaper estimated that the following animals are being killed by motor vehicles in the United States annually:

This study may not have considered differences in observability among taxa (i.e. dead raccoons are easier to see than dead frogs), and has not been published in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

State Wildlife Roadkill Identification Guide

The first wildlife roadkill identification guide produced by a state agency in North America was published by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation (BCMoT) in Canada in 2008. BCMoT’s “Wildlife Roadkill Identification Guide” focused on the most common large carnivores and ungulates found in British Columbia. The guide was developed to assist BCMoT's maintenance contractors in identifying wildlife carcasses found on provincial highways as part of their responsibilities for BCMoT’s Wildlife Accident Reporting System (WARS).

Michigan roadkill analysis

In 1994, Michiganmarker reported 56,666 deer collisions, of which five resulted in human fatalities, according to Mark Matthew Braunstein of the Santa Cruz Hub. The problem is so pervasive that, according to an article by Hank Pellissier of the San Francisco Chronicle, Michigan uses roadkill statistics to estimate its deer population.

Roadkill prevention

Collisions with animals can have many negative consequences, besides the obvious consequence of likely death to the victim.
  • Vehicle damage
  • Harm to endangered species
  • Injury to, or death of, pets
  • Injury to, or death of, vehicle occupants
Lost pet skunks are particularly vulnerable since they lack a sense of direction and cannot see objects more than about 3 m (10 ft) away with any clarity.

Collisions with animals with antlers (e.g., deer) are particularly dangerous as the head has a tendency to separate and come through the windshield , but any large, long-legged animal (e.g. horses, larger cattle, camels) can pose a similar cabin incursion hazard. Injury to humans due to driver failure to maintain control of a vehicle either while avoiding, or during and immediately after an animal impact is also not infrequent.

Deer horns can be mounted on vehicles to warn deer of approaching automobiles, though their effectiveness is disputed .

Night driving

Although strikes can happen at any time of day, deer tend to move at dawn and dusk and are particularly active during the October–December mating season. Driving at night presents its own challenges: Nocturnal species are on the move, and visibility, particularly side visibility, is reduced. When headlights approach a nocturnal animal, this makes it hard for the creature to see the approaching car (nocturnal animals see better in the dark than in the light). Furthermore, the glare of vehicle headlights can dazzle some species, such as rabbits: They will freeze in the road rather than flee. The simple tactics of reducing speed and scanning both sides of the road for foraging deer can improve driver safety at night. Drivers may see the glow of a deer's eyes before seeing the animal itself.

Wildlife crossings

Wildlife crossings allow animals to travel over or underneath roads. They are most widely used in Europe, but have also been installed in a few U.S. locations and in parts of Western Canada. As new highways cause habitats to become increasingly fragmented, these crossings could play a crucial role in protecting endangered species.

In the United States, sections of road known to have heavy deer cross-traffic will usually have a warning sign depicting a bounding deer. Similar signs exist for moose, elk and other species.

In the American West, roads may pass through large areas designated as "open range", meaning that no fences separate drivers from large animals such as cattle or bison. A driver may round a bend to find a small herd standing in the road. Open range areas are generally marked with signage and protected by a cattle guard.

A few states now have sophisticated systems to protect motorists from large animals. One of these systems is called RADS (Roadway Animal Detection System). A solar powered sensor detects animals near the roadway and flashes a light to alert oncoming drivers.


The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation is an example of an organization advocating roadkill prevention.


In the New Forestmarker, in southern Englandmarker, there is a proposal to fence roads to protect the New Forest pony. However, this proposal is controversial .

Health aspects

  • People using highway bridges for shelter should be aware that a bridge constitutes a trap for any animal that wanders on to it, and runoff cascading from the bridge during a rainstorm has often come into intimate contact with long-dead roadkill.

Cultural aspects

  • The fact that most people's encounters with roadkill occur long enough after the time of death for the carcass to be further macerated by traffic, or begin to decompose has contributed to strong negative or ironic cultural associations and taboos. For example, when the Tennessee legislature attempted to legalize the utilization of accidentally killed animals, they became the butt of stereotyping and derisive humor .
  • Roadkill is sometimes used as an art form. Some of these artists are formally trained in traditional taxidermy preparation while others are merely experimenting. Roadkill as art is not new, American artist Stephen Paternite has been exhibiting roadkill pieces since the 1970s..

See also


Armadillos are a commonly squashed animal because their first instinct to a threat (in this case, a car) is to jump in the air. The car does not stop, and therefore kills the animal.

In Japanmarker, a railway roadkill is sometimes referred to as "tuna" (maguro; マグロ). Because the dead body's head and feet are chopped off by the train, it looks like a piece of frozen tuna in a fish marketmarker (the tail of a tuna is always chopped off to examine its fat content). See マグロ Tuna (Railroad Accident)

There has been at least one case in the United States where a jail inmate was allegedly forced to eat roadkill.

We reject Sheriff Clegg's contention that the relevant law governing his conduct was not clearly established at the time Appellee was allegedly served contaminated roadkill meat in prison., Goodrick v. Clegg, 129 F.3d 125, Unpublished Disposition, 9th Cir.(Idaho), Nov 13, 1997.

Plaintiff Goodrick was incarcerated at Kootenai County Jail in Idaho on two occasions. While there he was fed roadkill, which he claims made him very sick., Goodrick v. Clegg, 210 F.3d 382, Unpublished Disposition, 9th Cir.(Idaho), Jan 4, 2000.

See also


  1. Report shows high animal road kill toll in Tasmania
  2. Roger M. Knutson
  3. Road kills: Assessing insect casualties using flagship taxon
  4. Erritzoe J., Mazgajski T. D., Rejt Ł. 2003. Bird casualties on European roads — a review. Acta Ornithol. 38: 77–93.
  5. Roadkill 2007 – Summary of Past Data
  6. Animal People Newspaper
  7. [1]
  8. [2]
  9. The Art of Dead Mice

External links

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