Emergency response to injured wildlife on Australian roads

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Every year thousands of native wildlife are killed on Victorian roads. This is absolutely devastating for these animals that suffered or died, but also a huge concern for the safety of drivers and passengers. RACV and Wildlife Victoria urge you to please slow down while driving between dusk and dawn in areas populated by wildlife when our nocturnal animals are most active and feeding. Should you see an injured or distressed native animal please call Wildlife Victoria straight away on 03 8400 7300 and they will co-ordinate the best response and make sure the pouch is checked for young. Did you know that over 70% of female eastern grey kangaroos (the most common animal hit by vehicles) have pouch young present?

Wildlife Victoria, RACV’s Environment and Sustainability Community partner, is a charity organisation committed to reducing the suffering of Australia’s native animals by providing the community with an emergency response service for injured, sick and orphaned wildlife across Victoria. This vital community service is connected to over 1500 trained and experienced volunteers that assess, advise, rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release the animals back into the wild. Last year alone they received over 70,000 calls and assisted a staggering 40,123 animals.

Why are wildlife accidents common at certain times?

Macropods, like kangaroos and wallabies, are most active and will feed at dawn and dusk. The grass on the sides of our roads tends to be fresher from water run-off, making these areas favourable to wildlife but obviously dangerous for both the animals and road users. Wildlife Victoria’s Emergency Response Service receives a spike in calls during these active hours. Headlights can often ‘blind’ animals, confusing them and initiating a reactive fight or flight response. If you see a mob of kangaroos or other wildlife near the side of the road, slow down to a speed that is safe for you to break if needed, ensuring your well-being and that of our wildlife.

What can motorists do to avoid collisions with wildlife?

Motorists should be aware that they are in macropod territory when driving on some of Victoria’s (and suburban Melbourne’s) roads. By keeping aware of your surroundings and being particularly cautious during twilight hours, you should have a better chance of avoiding a collision. Recent studies from the Centre for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide have shown that a reduction in speed of just 10 percent has the potential to reduce vehicle crashes by 20 percent. Reducing your speed in these areas at these times increases your chance of safely stopping if you come across wildlife on the road.

What to do if you collide with wildlife?

If you’re involved in, or witness, an accident with a native animal please give Wildlife Victoria’s emergency response service a call 03 8400 7300 or click here – even if the animal didn’t survive, someone may need to be sent to check the pouch for young and make the area safe.

You can even check the pouch yourself – just make sure you look after your own safety first: don’t go out onto dangerous roads, always wear gloves, and don’t ever try to forcibly remove a baby that has latched onto its Mum’s teat – you’ll need a specially trained rescuer for that. If you are unsure or would like to check details give Wildlife Victoria’s emergency response operators a call.

Pouch young may have been thrown out of Mum’s pouch in an accident and could be nearby on the road or roadside, please check around the area.

You may have seen animals by the side of the road with large spray paint crosses on them: this is how wildlife rescuers let other rescuers know that the animal’s pouch has already been checked. If you’re checking pouches regularly you might want to carry a can of spray paint and some disposable gloves in your glove box.

Please feel free to share your stories and experiences as we strive to make it safer for our native animals and road users.

Feature image credit/Fair Projects

Written by Chris Bourke, Environmental Programs Officer
August 11, 2016