Roadkill: A survey of state road authorities and local government

Roadkill statistics screenshot.JPG

In response to the ongoing, tragic and seemingly intractable issue of roadkill, the TCT conducted a survey of all major road managers within the state to try to identify where there might be better coordination of resources and effort, hopefully leading to fewer deaths and injuries of animals on our roads. Here is the summary of results and recommendations.

 

 

STATE GOVERNMENT ROAD MANAGERS

The survey was sent to the four major state road managers: Hydro Tasmania, Department of State Growth (State Growth), Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) and Forestry Tasmania. All responded.

Summary of results

State government road managers generally show a greater commitment than local government to addressing the issue of roadkill. There was some recognition that mitigation is important: staff training courses in defensive driving, signage, regular removal of dead animals from roads and real and virtual fencing are some of the mitigation measures adopted.

Stornaway, the company that manages much of the road contract work for Hydro Tasmania and State Growth, provides training, through Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, for some of its staff on how to mitigate and generally manage roadkill on the roads they work on. 

The removal of dead animals from the roads is a priority for most of the state road managers, but it is generally done infrequently, varying from weekly to monthly or whenever there is road work. The method of removal usually involves ‘flicking’ or carrying the dead animal a metre or so off the road.

Injured animals are referred on to vets or carers by most of the authorities. Stornaway trains its road crews to look for young in the pouches of marsupials and contact relevant carers. 

Most of the authorities provide grants, donations or ongoing financial support to carer networks.

Signage is provided by most managers, generally in conjunction with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program.

Monitoring and recording of the numbers and types of animals killed on the roads is done on an ad hoc basis and generally kept on internal databases managed by maintenance staff.

Only PWS stated that it has an overall strategy for dealing with roadkill.

Priorities identified by the authorities included defensive driving courses, more signage, more strategic centralised roadkill data collection and management across all Tasmanian roads, speed limits and the targeting of roadkill hotspots.

Recommendations

Some suggested priority actions for the TCT are as follows:

  • A more collaborative, systematic, strategic approach to mitigating and managing roadkill by all road managers.
  • Defensive driver education for all staff and the general public.
  • More input into and promotion of www.roadkill.imagocean.com.au website, as a key source of information about roadkill hotspots (targeting tourists and major road users).
  • More frequent removal of roadkill.
  • More training in the removal of roadkill and the treatment of injured animals.
  • More signage giving phone numbers for removal or care.
  • Longer-term funding for carer networks.
  • A centralised, public-accessible database of roadkill statistics and hotspots.

The following statement by the Stornaway road manager contracted to Hydro Tasmania is an insightful comment on what he sees as the major challenges for mitigating roadkill.

Speaking for myself rather than the company: speed and sight distance are the main offenders. Ideally vegetation should be cleared 15m back from the edge of the carriageway. 

This would be better for the pavement (sunlight = dry) and make it easier to see animals before they jump out onto the road... This is not going to happen in Tasmania – too expensive. Probably not perceived as PC either.
I drive 40,000km per year and have never run over any animals in the last 6 years of doing this job. 

I believe that education around speed is worth investing in. Unfortunately, road kill merely reflects the Tasmanian public’s attitude and habits. Sad really (exactly the same as littering).

Removal of roadside vegetation has been shown to make roads less attractive for animals and make it easier for drivers to see animals on the roadside.  The TCT will need to ensure that road managers do not remove important native vegetation or spread weeds while attempting to reduce roadkill.  

However, if road managers are already mowing roadsides, they may be able to help reduce roadkill by doing it more regularly and at the preferred times of the year.

 

Summary of results

Three out of 29 councils chose not to respond (Meander Valley, Derwent Valley and Waratah-Wynyard).

Responses in most cases came from works supervisors or managers of engineering and works.

Very little attention is paid to mitigation, only when there has been community pressure, e.g. little penguin fencing, virtual fencing for Tasmanian devils.

Twenty-three out of the 26 councils that responded remove dead animals from their roads, generally not regularly and almost always catalysed by community/tourist pressure.

Sixteen of the 26 councils contact carers’ networks or vets when they find injured animals. But the monitoring of roads for roadkill tends to be ad hoc. 

There was virtually no financial contribution made to carer networks, apart from Burnie Council which contributes to the Friends of the Little Penguins.

There was poor/non-existent knowledge of or interest in roadkill hotspots. Kingborough Council is a partner in the mitigation measure trials for Tasmanian devils. West Tamar Council partners with the state government in managing the road leading into Nawrantapu National Park.

There is virtually no monitoring apart from West Tamar Council, which has a monitoring program conducted with the community for several roads, mainly in the Greens Beach/Nawrantapu National Park. There is also some support for community monitoring from Hobart City Council.

Recommendations

Some suggested priority actions for the TCT are as follows.

Standardised signage for hotspots done in conjunction with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, giving contacts for local animal-care networks or the Bonorong Rescue Hotline. Signage could also provide phone numbers for the removal of dead animals.

More frequent removal of dead animals.

Transfer of knowledge – Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary will provide training for council staff free of charge.

Further education. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary leaflets could be sent out in council newsletters or rates notices, particularly prior to the spring/summer season when roadkill is at its worst. Ratepayers could be directed to the www.roadkill.imagocean.com.au website for information. 

Community awareness/engagement programs, particularly around the hotspots and advising how to avoid hitting animals. 

Encourage monitoring programs in conjunction with community groups (e.g. West Tamar model). Work towards standardized monitoring, perhaps in conjunction with the www.roadkill.imaginocean.com.au website. 

Encourage partnerships between councils and insurance companies regarding signage, driver awareness training and hotspot awareness.

We will continue to work with road managers to facilitate the implementation of these recommendations. 

Giant Fresh Water Crayfish survives a road crossing at Arthur River.  Photo by Stuart Swanson

Giant Fresh Water Crayfish survives a road crossing at Arthur River.  Photo by Stuart Swanson

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES

Summary of results

Three out of 29 councils chose not to respond (Meander Valley, Derwent Valley and Waratah-Wynyard).

Responses in most cases came from works supervisors or managers of engineering and works.

Very little attention is paid to mitigation, only when there has been community pressure, e.g. little penguin fencing, virtual fencing for Tasmanian devils.

Twenty three out of the 26 councils that responded remove dead animals from their roads, generally not regularly and almost always catalysed by community/tourist pressure.

Sixteen of the 26 councils contact carers’ networks or vets when they find injured animals. But the monitoring of roads for roadkill tends to be ad hoc. 

There was virtually no financial contribution made to carer networks, apart from Burnie Council which contributes to the Friends of the Little Penguins.

There was poor/non-existent knowledge of or interest in roadkill hotspots. Kingborough Council is a partner in the mitigation measure trials for Tasmanian devils. West Tamar Council partners with the state government in managing the road leading into Nawrantapu National Park.

There is virtually no monitoring apart from West Tamar Council, which has a monitoring program conducted with the community for several roads, mainly in the Greens Beach/Nawrantapu National Park. There is also some support for community monitoring from Hobart City Council.

Recommendations

Some suggested priority actions for the TCT are as follows.

Standardised signage for hotspots done in conjunction with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, giving contacts for local animal-care networks or the Bonorong Rescue Hotline. Signage could also provide phone numbers for the removal of dead animals.

More frequent removal of dead animals.

Transfer of knowledge – Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary will provide training for council staff free of charge.

Further education. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary leaflets could be sent out in council newsletters or rates notices, particularly prior to the spring/summer season when roadkill is at its worst. Ratepayers could be directed to the www.roadkill.imagocean.com.au website for information. 

Community awareness/engagement programs, particularly around the hotspots and advising how to avoid hitting animals. 

Encourage monitoring programs in conjunction with community groups (e.g. West Tamar model). Work towards standardised monitoring, perhaps in conjunction with the www.roadkill.imaginocean.com.au website. 

Encourage partnerships between councils and insurance companies re signage, driver awareness training and hotspot awareness.

We will continue to work with road managers to facilitate the implementation of these recommendations. 

By Helen Pryor

Boobook Owl hit by car on South Arm Road, Sandford. Photo by Peter McGlone

Boobook Owl hit by car on South Arm Road, Sandford. Photo by Peter McGlone

The image at the top is of a Brushtail Possum killed by vehicle on Storeys Creek Road. Photo by Heather Cassidy.

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