Tag: Roadkill

Roadkill madness

Have we reached a tipping point I wonder, in a realisation and an awareness – as well as hopefully a collective horror – about the staggering number of wildlife being exterminated on our roads?
It’s not like the issue of roadkill is new. Some of us have been urging drivers to slow down on Tasmania’s roads for years, especially between the hours of dusk and dawn when our mostly nocturnal wildlife is active. There have been multiple letters to editors over the years, from both locals and tourists, appalled at the number of roadkilled bodies lining the roadsides. There have been multiple pleas from wildlife champion Greg Irons from Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, begging people to please show caution, and to slow down, especially when driving at night or early in the morning.

It seems that people are finally waking up and finding their voices. Certainly I hope so. Suddenly there seems to be an explosion of community groups forming around the state determined to halt the carnage. Primarily in their own locality, but also more widely. Facebook pages have been established. Tamar Valley Wildlife Roadkill Initiative and Friends of Summerleas Wildlife are just two of them. Posts are being shared. The ‘likes’ are increasing. While the graphic photos being posted can be confronting, (they’re meant to be) they are also having some success in mobilising people to be more aware. And to encourage them how to be involved.

Letters to editors are good, and Council road signs reminding drivers to ‘slow down for wildlife’ are also good, but a relatively new and effective strategy being promoted by a southern Tasmanian group is posters. They have a range of different ones to choose from and they’re popping up on fences and gates across the island. Thanks to a committed team of volunteers and wildlife carers these posters are being ferried around the state. They all have a photograph of a pademelon, a wallaby, a wombat, a masked owl, a Tasmanian devil etc and a simple message that asks drivers to slow down because everyone deserves to arrive home safe and sound at night. And the cost is modest at only $16 each. Order from Friends of Summerleas Wildlife

It’s a fantastic initiative and already there are three along our road. It’s certainly not the only strategy to help protect our vulnerable wildlife, and I cannot say in truth that it’s proved 100 per cent effective yet in my area, but it’s a start and will hopefully prompt more people to be alert to our furred and feathered friends when they’re driving along regional and rural roads, because as the posters remind us: we all deserve to arrive home safely.

Remember the wildlife

For all the bounty harvested from the garden at the moment, summer can be a distressing time of the year. Hot dry summers mean plenty of time spent watering the plants of course, but they also signal a rise in animal fatalities on our roads. It’s also the time of year that our local farmer separates the youthful steers from their mums. And unsurprisingly the mums are upset. They aren’t afraid to vocalise their distress either, keeping up the lowing and keening pretty much non-stop for three days. And nights. The mother-son bond is strong, but the bond can also be strong for wildlife. I was reminded of this the other day after finding a native hen on the roadside that must have been whacked by a car. This was an adult bird, and probably one of the parents of a family we’ve seen several times lately crossing the road from the paddock to the riverbank. Mum, dad and four chicks – now almost fully grown.

While pairing up isn’t necessarily a lifetime bond for native hens, there still does seem to be a closeness if the behaviour of one of the birds I spotted this morning is anything to go by. A bird I strongly suspect was the partner of the one that was killed was obviously searching for something other than food. I guessed it was probably his/her mate. These family groups of native hens hang around together and they do tend to throw caution to the winds when it’s time for the parents to show the kids around the neighbourhood. Out our way this can often involve crossing the road so it’s unsurprising a few of them don’t make it. Usually though, it’s one of the inexperienced chicks. 

But it’s not only native hens that come to grief as the young ones grow up. In the last week I’ve also found a dead magpie, an eastern rosella, a young rabbit, and a copperhead snake. As well as on one memorable morning of carnage, three wallabies. It prompted me to write a letter to our local community newsletter, urging people to slow down when driving, and to consider our wildlife. I can only hope it will make a difference:

“Another plea to everyone in our community to please, please, PLEASE slow down when driving along our roads, and to be aware of our precious wildlife. Recently I was obliged to remove no less than three roadkilled bennetts wallabies – all male.

One was found while walking our dog, then two more when on my way to an appointment in town. All were killed along our road. Two had been very recently killed as they were still warm, and the oozing blood was still wet.

At this time of year when vegetation is drying out and wildlife are more likely to be checking out the grass along the verges, and seeking a bit of moisture, they are also more likely to be active outside the traditional dusk to dawn timeline. All the development in our area is slowly displacing our wildlife, and reducing their decreasing habitat even further.

Please consider that this area is their home too. And it was their home long before all of us arrived. We are incredibly fortunate to have wildlife living so close. Most of us, I’m sure, value, appreciate and enjoy their proximity. So please do your bit to help protect and maintain it. It’s worth remembering too that vehicle damage from colliding with a bennetts in particular – can be significant. And expensive. Thank you.”

It’s beyond distressing to find carcasses on the roadside so to any and all who stumble across this post, please take note. And remember we do indeed share this planet with other creatures, many of whom are now living on the edge due in large part to human activity, and a rapidly changing climate.

Mad as a March hare

This is an expression I grew up hearing in the UK, where hares are – or were – quite common in rural regions, but I never gave a great deal of thought about why these animals were considered ‘mad’.

It’s only since living in Tasmania, and my particular corner of it, that I’ve come to fully appreciate the reason. These normally quite elusive and solitary animals really do behave quite differently in spring. Or now in other words, during September and October, when the urge to mate and breed is uppermost in their minds, and they appear happy to risk life and limb sometimes in order to do so. Certainly their behaviour can be extraordinarily reckless, and not for the first time since living at this property – one that’s surrounded by the open paddocks and grassy vacant blocks that are ideal hare habitat – we’ve spotted hares casually hopping along the driveway seemingly oblivious to Della dog, who’d normally be after them like a shot.

Fortunately for the hares, Della’s attention is currently fully occupied on the rapidly expanding rabbit family, that’s taken up residence under one of the sheds, and she’s patiently waiting for one of the youngsters to stray too far from the burrow, perhaps tempted by the lush grass that’s a bit further away than is safe.

If we see a hare or three while on our morning walks though, it’s a different story. Then, it’s all on to hold her as she strains to escape the leash and chase them. And before the development that is relentlessly taking over what was once prime farmland, but which has now been sub-divided into residential blocks, she could and did do just that. Not that she ever succeeded in catching one, but it wasn’t for want of trying and they led her a merry dance for the duration, so she certainly got her exercise even if it never translated into a meal.

Sadly those days of being able to run free to sniff and explore are a receding memory as the opportunities to do so dwindle in a landscape that’s being recalibrated. Once a haven for wildlife, the semi-rural area we moved to so many years ago has seen ever more development being approved as rules have been relaxed to enable more housing to be built.

All the development has, and is, displacing wildlife, and along with the risk of species’ loss, roadkill is often the result. At this time of year, roadkill includes hares. Never mind they’re an introduced species with all the controversy that entails, it’s still confronting and immeasurably sad to find a roadkilled hare that a few hours before would have been leaping and running about, full of the joys of spring, but for a crazy misguided moment when it leapt in the wrong direction.



Roadkill – Tasmania’s shame

Plans for yesterday morning required a reset after I discovered a very alive and kicking pademelon joey in the pouch of a roadkilled mum shortly after setting off on my morning walk with Della dog. Mum was still warm so clearly hadn’t long been hit, and although joey was still very pink and unfurred, she was strong and extremely reluctant to leave the safety of her mother’s warm pouch.

A swift turn around, (luckily on this occasion I was in the car and driving to one of our regular weekend walks), and back home to contact the state’s wildlife rescue service, now coordinated by Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in the south. I was unsure if the carer to whom I’ve previously taken orphaned joeys over the years was still operating. Amazingly, after what has to be 40-odd years, I learned that she is. I interviewed her at least eight years ago and she’d been caring for wildlife then for about 30 years.

Like all wildlife carers Lorraine was a volunteer and the time and commitment required to help minimise and ameliorate the ghastly toll on our wildlife from interactions with vehicles is just amazing. Joeys as young as the one I rescued need four-hourly feeds – so similar to human babies in their demand for food. And due to their intolerance to cow’s milk a special marsupial formula has to be given, which only registered carers are allowed to access. It’s a product that doesn’t come cheap and it’s likely some carers sometimes pay for supplies with their own money, especially at peak breeding season when the number of animals needing care escalates.

Back home joey soon snuggled into my beanie, topped with a scarf to make it as cosy as possible, while I recorded the details with the WRS. This included identifying the species, weighing the joey, and taking a photo (not easy!) while waiting for Thomas, the designated wildlife-collector-of-injured-animals that day, to come and deliver her to a carer in my area able to cope with one more animal in need.

Spring is a particularly busy time for injured wildlife, a sad indictment on the number of dead animals and orphaned joeys that are a result of speeding vehicles, or careless driving.

This blog post is therefore also a reminder and a request to everyone reading it to PLEASE slow down on our roads, especially between dusk and dawn. It truly is beyond distressing to find injured and deceased animals that would still be alive and hopping if everyone just took a little more care, left home a few minutes earlier, and reduced their speed, especially on those regional and rural roads that are also shared by our precious and iconic wildlife.