How Roe Deer Find Their Way Across Roads

Jenn Hoskins
3rd May, 2024

How Roe Deer Find Their Way Across Roads

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In southwest Germany, researchers studied how often roe deer cross roads and the risk of them being hit by vehicles
  • They found that deer cross more frequently in areas with higher vehicle collision risk, challenging the idea of "safe" crossing zones
  • The study suggests that both high collision areas and perceived barriers by wildlife need attention for effective road planning and wildlife conservation
As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, the expansion of roads is a necessary development to support human activities and growth. However, this expansion comes at a cost to wildlife, as roads can be deadly barriers and sources of mortality due to wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs). Researchers at the University of Freiburg have embarked on a study to understand better the impact of roads on wildlife, beyond the usual identification of WVC hot-spots[1]. This study questions whether stretches of road with low WVC frequencies are indeed safe for wildlife crossings or if they are areas that animals actively avoid due to the risk of collision. Previous research has highlighted the severity of WVCs as a global issue, with studies like the one conducted in the Czech Republic analyzing over 27,000 WVC records to identify significant clusters of collisions using advanced statistical methods[2]. These clusters were associated with specific local factors that increased the risk of WVCs. Similarly, in Edmonton, Alberta, landscape models were employed to predict deer-vehicle collision hot-spots, finding that certain roadside and landscape characteristics, such as dense and diverse vegetation near roads, were linked to higher collision rates[3]. The Freiburg study expands on these findings by investigating areas with low WVC incidences. The researchers aim to determine whether these areas are inherently safer for wildlife crossings or if they are simply avoided by animals due to perceived danger. The distinction is crucial for developing effective mitigation strategies: if animals avoid certain areas, it could indicate larger disruptions in wildlife movement and habitat use, which may have far-reaching ecological consequences. To address this question, the study employs a combination of field observation, tracking, and advanced statistical analysis to compare the behavior and movement patterns of wildlife in areas with both high and low frequencies of WVCs. By understanding the behavior of animals in relation to roads, the study seeks to inform whether wildlife is adapting to road presence by learning to avoid certain areas or if there are indeed 'safe' zones for crossings. This research is particularly timely, as the global road network is expected to grow by 60% by 2050, predominantly in developing nations that harbor rich biodiversity[4]. The implications of road expansion on wildlife are profound, with roads contributing to habitat loss, fragmentation, and environmental degradation. The University of Freiburg's study is a step towards proactive road planning that minimizes the negative impacts on wildlife while accommodating human development needs. The study's findings could have significant implications for how we design and manage road systems in the future. By identifying whether animals avoid roads due to perceived threats, we can better understand the indirect effects of roads on wildlife. This knowledge can guide the creation of infrastructure that allows for safer wildlife crossings and the preservation of ecological connectivity. For example, if certain areas are identified as natural avoidance zones for wildlife, they could be targeted for conservation efforts or for the construction of wildlife overpasses or underpasses. In conclusion, the University of Freiburg's research contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between wildlife and road networks. By examining areas with low WVCs and the behavior of wildlife in these areas, the study offers insights that could lead to more informed and effective mitigation strategies. This research not only builds upon previous studies that have identified risk factors and collision hot-spots but also opens up new avenues for understanding how animals interact with the ever-growing presence of roads in their habitats.



Main Study

1) Crossings and collisions – Exploring how roe deer navigate the road network

Published 30th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) On reliable identification of factors influencing wildlife-vehicle collisions along roads.

3) Predicting deer-vehicle collisions in an urban area.

4) A global strategy for road building.

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