Wildlife on our roads

By: Kath Heiman, Photography by: Kath Heiman

The safety of our wildlife on the road falls on you.

Wildlife on our roads
It’s vital you reduce your speed when driving at night to avoid hitting wildlife

Since I started driving, I’ve had a few run-ins with native animals. Commuting from a rural property in my early 20s, sometimes I’d count over 30 roadside kangaroos at night in the 15 short kilometres to the closest built-up town. So it was inevitable that, now and again, my path would coincide with the local fauna.

Fortunately, driving a 1970 VW Beetle, the rounded steel panels were remarkably tough and the occasional glancing blow from a kangaroo or wallaby would leave me shaking, but otherwise unscathed.

The one thing I learnt during that period was the importance of reducing my speed at night and maintaining my line when unexpectedly faced with an animal obstacle on the road. In this way, by the time I reached the animal’s location, it had usually moved to safety.

So I was sad when I occasionally struck a kangaroo, but I wasn’t sorry that I forced them out of my way. After all, swerving to avoid hitting animals is a major cause of serious and fatal road accidents in Australia.

A couple of years ago, the ABC reported that, in NSW over a 10-year period, more than 5000 road accidents in the State involved animals. On a conservative estimate, 17,000 people were injured in these accidents and 22 killed. About 60% of the animal-related road fatalities involved kangaroos and wallabies. Notably, often it wasn’t the furry roadblocks that caused the deaths and injuries, it was the trees the drivers hit as they swerved to avoid them.


After 28 years on the road, and only five minor wildlife strikes, I’m pretty confident in my driving skills. I must say, however, that I’m not so sure that my wildlife rescue skills have advanced much since the day that I poked native grass stems into a darkened box to placate a damaged galah.

Five years ago, the son of a New Zealand buddy asked me, "why are dead kangaroos spray painted with purple stripes?" Until then, I hadn’t actively turned my mind to the daily efforts being made by wildlife volunteers on behalf of injured animals. I really had to think hard before I responded to the boy that the stripes indicated that the road kill had been checked for live babies.

While I may not know much about wildlife rescue — I do know that, if done improperly, it can cause hurt and distress to the animal and rescuer alike. At the end of the day, I’d still think carefully before attempting rescue of anything much larger than an injured echidna. And even then, I’d want a good set of gardening gloves and a hessian bag before I took on the task.

So instead, I’m going to make sure that I have every State and Territory wildlife rescue organisation’s telephone number with me in my vehicle, wherever I am. With the advent of mobile and satellite communications, I’d have to be a very long way from home before I’d need to deal with an injured animal alone. 

Meanwhile, I’m going to continue to focus on what I’m good at – which is driving. After all, when it comes to wildlife – if I don’t hit them, I don’t need to rescue them. 

Emergency contacts

If you find an injured or sick native animal, contact your local wildlife rescue group:

  • NSW, 1300 094 737
  • VIC, 1300 094 535
  • QLD, 1300 130 372

Put these in your mobile phone now.

Visit Foundation for www.fnpw.org.au/resources/wildlife-carer-arescue-groups-australia for nationwide crews.

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