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Germany Goes to War Against Roadkill

Germany Goes to War Against Roadkill

The sight of a dead animal by the side of the road is always heartbreaking, and in Germany, it’s a particularly big problem, with an estimated one million car versus animal encounters on German roads annually. Most of those incidents end badly for the animal, but sometimes for the driver as well; larger animals like deer, elk and boars can cause serious damage to cars, and in some cases lead to deaths. 20 people died on German roads last year as a result of animal-related collisions, and insurance claims related to such events were also very high.

For a radical illustration of how large roadkill looms, German researchers estimate that of the wildlife killed in Germany annually, around 20% die as a result of being hit by cars.

That’s a lot of deaths, and German rangers, policy officials and highway safety officers want to do something to change that, especially in the heavily forested regions of Germany where wildlife traffic tends to be heavy. Foxes, badgers, rabbits and numerous other small animals attempt to cross roads in the millions each year, and not all of them make it safely to the other side. Drivers, meanwhile, fear accidents with deer and other large animals, knowing that they have little time to stop if they see animals in the road, and that a panicked animal can behave unpredictably, potentially creating a dangerous situation.

A number of tools have been proposed for dealing with the problem, but it’s proving to be a complex issue. One proposal involved reflectors that would flash when cars approach, designed to deter animals, but they didn’t seem to have a big effect. Hunters also tried “odor fences,” using foam scented with predator urine to make the area around the road unappealing, pushing deer into safer areas. This, too, didn’t seem to work very well.

One option can be effective: it activates flashing lights in the roadway when deer and other large animals are approaching. Unfortunately, it’s not very cost-effective for installation across Germany, and it doesn’t do much for small animals. Another solution is appearing in German cars themselves, as well as those from other nations with a big roadkill problem: collision detectors designed to identify the signs of wildlife and help drivers avoid them. Such safety devices can help people avoid pedestrian collisions and other accidents, too, but they’re expensive, don’t come standard on every new car, and of course don’t do much for those driving older models.

Here’s a really cool solution: the green bridge, aka wildlife overpass. Instead of creating a narrow crossing bridge or tunnel, it acts more like an extension to hook up habitat that would otherwise be segmented by the road. Deer and other animals can cross the landscaped overpass safely, allowing drivers to pass freely below. It can be costly to implement, but it might be a good long-term solution to the issue, as it addresses issues like habitat segmentation as well as wildlife and road safety.

In addition, many of these overpasses accommodate farm vehicles, too, which keeps them out of the road so they don’t disturb the flow of traffic. In communities where such vehicles commonly have to take to public roads and subsequently cause traffic jams, this can be a serious safety problem, as changes in the flow of traffic increase the risk of accidents. With a green bridge, this problem is sideskirted, keeping farmers and animals safer along with drivers!

Ongoing research in Germany continues to find a solution to the roadkill problem, and some nations are looking forward eagerly to the results to tackle roadkill issues of their own. With more and more cars on the road these days, animals are at even more risk, and it’s time for that to change.

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Photo credit: Tiberiu Ana.

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4:17AM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

12:00PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

I know they have overpasses in certain part of Canada to protect wildlife and the rest of the world should do so if financially able. It's a precaution on the reckless drivers and protect animals from being hit. Actually, in the long run, it saves the countries money by cleaning, etc...

8:35AM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

I think Green Bridges are a most excellent idea and encourage every country to start building them immediately.They would benefit all life by restoring greenery to areas that have been paved to make roads. A win win situation. A supply of money could be printed to apply to this project directly, thus also getting more money circulating into the economies of every country.If the supper wealthy won't pay their fair share, then lets just print what we need to get the things done that need doing while they sit on their money, doing nothing useful with it.Unless it's circulating, it does no good.

6:08PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Well if some thing is not done there simply wont be any wild life left, now if all countries would implement something like this there might be a chance for the animals. A step in the wright direction....

2:45PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Wildlife overpasses/underpasses and collision detectors are a very small price to pay to preclude the deaths of so many animals. Also, keeping roads out of areas critical to wildlife, would be great as well. All these efforts suggests mankind might actually be capable of caring for the good of other species, which is long overdue.

10:29AM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Way to go Germany

3:40AM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Good idea Thanks for sharing

11:10AM PDT on Jul 27, 2013

Absolutely love this idea. Cut foreign aid and we'd have the money to do so much. Sadly, our Congress could care less about wildlife. TX is one of states increasing speed limits - uses more gas and, I would think, makes it more difficult to slow for anything crossing your path.

9:38AM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

I think in parts of England they use underpasses. In any case, overpasses and underpasses are an excellent solution. However, another excellent solution is for people to drive carefully. I've been driving for circa 50 years and I have never as far as I am aware ever killed or injured any animal on a street or highway. I do not drive with a lead foot on the gas peddle and I slow down considerably in areas where wildlife may be present. It breaks my heart when I see squirrels, rabbits, cats and other creatures dead on the roads. What is really terrible are those sadistic creeps who run over animals deliberately and brag about it.

8:10AM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

A brilliant idea that requires implementation all around the world but is costly. Plenty dosh to screw up the world. Very little spent on saving it.

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