Road Kill

I doubt if many motorists ever notice the sorry little corpses that are to be found along our roads. Unless the animal concerned is quite large I don't suppose that they even know that they have hit something. To a cyclist , however, their sorry remains are all too obvious. We are less than 2 weeks into 2013 and already I have cycled past 3 dead badgers, a hare and a red squirrel. Last year I decided to keep a record of dead birds and animals seen while out cycling. It makes grim reading.

Badger

Top of the road casualty list

I quickly gave up trying to count the number of dead rabbits and pheasants that I saw – they are just too numerous. On every ride I would expect to see at least 3 dead rabbits and 2 or 3 pheasants. I tend only to cycle on the quieter roads on the island so I would imagine that the tally on the major roads would be much higher. The Isle of Wight has no deer or grey squirrels and there are very few hedgehogs so hedgehog casualty figures are lower than you might expect.

Blackbird

Leading the bird casualties

RED SQUIRREL

7 red squirrel casualties last year

Mammals

  • 19 Badgers
  • 18 Rats
  • 9 Stoats
  • 8 Foxes
  • 7 Red Squirrels
  • 4 Hedgehogs
  • 2 Hares
  • 2 Domestic Cats
  • 1 Mole

Reptiles/Amphibians

  • 6 Slow Worms
  • 5 Frogs

Birds

  • 31 Blackbirds
  • 26 Woodpigeons
  • 7 Carrion Crows
  • 6 Robins
  • 6 House Sparrows
  • 5 Chaffinches
  • 4 Mallards
  • 3 Red Legged Partridges
  • 3 Magpies
  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 2 Jays
  • 2 Moorhens
  • 1 Herring Gull
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 1 Rook
  • 1 Yellowhammer
  • 1 Green Woodpecker
  • 1 Greenfinch
  • 1 Whitethroat
  • 1 Wren
  • 1 Jackdaw
  • 1 Redwing
  • 1 Kestrel
  • 17 too flat to identify!

Its quite a long list! Some species have habits that make them particularly vulnerable. Hedgehogs are an obvious one. Blackbirds tend to fly low when leaving a hedge – straight in front of a passing car. Woodpigeons need to ingest grit to grind food in their gizzard. They tend to collect this at the side of the road and get squashed in the process. Carrion feeders such as crows and magpies are apt to become casualties themselves while feeding on roadkill rabbits. I was surprised by the number of dead rats I recorded but the vast majority of these were seen during hay making when they had obviously left the fields.

The majority of small bird deaths are probably unavoidable but I think high speeds and lack of attention account for most of the mammal deaths. 19 badgers is an awful lot!

8 comments on “Road Kill”

  1. Kern wrote:

    I am impressed, Hilary, on two counts. First, you are meticulous and disciplined enough to take on this project; second, you obviously have a comprehensive knowledge of wildlife (birds in particular), at least for the purposes of identification.

    Keeping such a tally would never cross my mind and, yes, it does make for grim reading. Fortunately no cyclists were included in the count. Too bad about those last 17 though :).

  2. Patrick wrote:

    Well documented, good Post. I try to look the other way because I find it sad to see a dead animal on the road (anywhere actually) but at least these were killed accidentally. It's just a pity that creatures have to die because humans choose to drive cars. I drive one myself of course. Aside from that I will not even kill a spider (they are put outside).

    Incidentally I can recommend Life of Pi – both the novel and the film. It's not often a film lives up to the book but this one does – esp in 3D at the cinema.

  3. Jim wrote:

    I read about a touring cyclist actually picking up fresh road kill and cooking it for supper. Very organic and better than leaving it to rot I suppose. He said he had to get to it quick before any other creatures or vehicles.
    Just bought the book Life of Pi for 20p from Amazon for my kindle.

  4. Chris wrote:

    Just re-read that, Jim. Relieved that you haven't bought a book about the Life of Road Kill Pie. Don't be giving the Isle of Wight stovers any ideas 😮

    Yes, a very comprehensive roll of the dead there, Hilary. I've nearly wrapped a couple of bunnies round my front spokes and a red deer came close to making road kill out of me last year, but I never thought to catalogue the dead creatures I passed by. For me the saddest, and least common, bird I saw by the roadside was a dead bullfinch a few years ago :sad:

  5. Hilary wrote:

    I've been interested in birds and wildlife in general since I was a kid but it took me 2 or 3 years to go from thinking 'I really should keep a list of all this' to actually doing it. I think there were less bird casualties this year than in previous years – they had a very poor breeding season so there were fewer young birds about, but mammal casualties, especially badgers, were much greater than I expected.

    I won't kill anything – even the slugs that have somehow found their way into the bathroom are put back outside to continue destroying the garden! Many years ago, on a student climbing trip, I did try a stew that someone had made with roadkill pheasant, it tasted pretty good! You could certainly live on rabbit and pheasant if you felt so inclined but as a vegetarian I'll give it a miss!

    Relieved that you haven't bought a book about the Life of Road Kill Pie. Don't be giving the Isle of Wight stovers any ideas

    LOL! It has occasionally been suggested, not too seriously I hope!

  6. Garry wrote:

    I've only seen two dead red squirrels in Ireland. They are in retreat, but I've never seen a dead grey one. We see lots of foxes, a fair number of badgers and lots of birds. I've seen a few kestrels.
    I've seen one dead mink. (not native but here now). I've never seen a dead snake here. We don't have snakes but there are bound to be a few escaped pets.
    I've seen a rabbit being actually killed by a lorry. We see tons of dead rabbits and a very occasional hare.

  7. Mary wrote:

    It is indeed very grim reading Hilary, I expect the RSPB to name just one organisation would be interested to see this sort of record keeping.

    It makes a change from seeing what our cats drag home getting blasted as having an effect on the wildlife. Poor Red squigs at least they are safe from the pox on the IOW, but sadly not from traffic.

  8. Tim wrote:

    One of the Isle of Wight's best kept secrets is that we have a small number of Red Deer living and breeding in the wild. They are very shy and secretive and far more difficult to spot than any farmed deer. Scientific studies have shown that when deer are at low numbers such as we have on the island their browsing and grazing can enhance biodiversity by creating a mosaic of grassy and shrubby understorey favourable to some of the other rare mammals that we have here including Red Squirrels, Hazel Dormice and Bechstein's Bat,

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