How to avoid harming wildlife on the road
Planning a regional road trip? Here’s how to help reduce Victoria’s wildlife road toll.
During the long months of lockdown, Victoria’s wildlife enjoyed a relative holiday from encounters with vehicles on regional roads. But with the lifting of restrictions and the arrival of summer holidays, more traffic in the bush means more danger for both fauna and motorists.
While animal collision claims to RACV Insurance were down 26 per cent in the year to 30 June, that followed a 24 per cent jump the previous year when 6575 animal collision claims were received. In 2019, 6200 injured animals were reported to Wildlife Victoria after collisions.
According to Wildlife Victoria, in most collisions the animal does not survive, or is so severely injured it must be euthanised.
The actual toll is likely much higher than the official figures suggest, as not all wild animals killed and injured on Victoria’s roads are reported. Alongside this animal suffering is the human cost: distress, injuries and vehicle damage.
Victoria University environmental scientist Dr Christine Connelly is trying to stop vehicles and wildlife crossing paths. She’s trialling a virtual fence, installed on a 3.6-kilometre stretch of Phillip Island road, where roadside headlight sensors trigger a low siren and strobing lights facing away from the road to deter animals.
Christine says the technology has been tested elsewhere, most notably in Tasmania where results suggested the virtual fence had reduced roadkill by 50 per cent. Her Phillip Island trial ups the ante on previous research with what she calls a “gold standard” in study design, including counting roadkill for eight months before the virtual fence’s activation. For the record, at the Phillip Island location the count was 210 animals, mostly wallabies and possums.
If the count during Christine’s Phillip Island trial is significantly lower than that figure, she hopes the results will underpin the widespread introduction of virtual fences.
Meanwhile, there are precautions motorists can take to help reduce Victoria’s wildlife road toll.