Reducing wild animal deaths on roads

Reducing wild animal deaths on roads

23 Jun 2014
deer standing in the snow

Collisions on roads between cars and deers have been reduced by 90% in Austria due to poles on roads which flash and emit sounds when they are activated by a car’s headlights.1 Poles are placed roughly every 50 meters and have been called “disco poles” due to their rhythmic sounds and flashing blue and yellow lights.

In Norway, collisions between cars and elks are common. Between 2005 and 2011 more than 300 people were injured in these collisions and probably a similar number of elks were killed.

Many potential solutions to this problem have been tested in Norway, ranging from fences to motion-sensing equipment, but now disco poles can be introduced. Elks are much larger than the deers in Austria, but the disco poles may have a similar effect.

Henrik Wildenschild, a representative of Norway’s roads administration, originally had the idea of bringing disco poles to Norway.

“Since it’s the law that headlights must be on day and night in Norway, this should work perfectly”, says Wildenschild.

  • Low-tech methods involving using fencing to funnel deers to a crossing point, often in conjunction with large signs informing drivers that there is a deer crossing ahead.3
  • Chemical repellants use various odors in the form of a spray or dust to keep deers away from roadways.4
  • Clearing of roadside vegetation makes deers less attracted to roadsides.5
  • Overpasses and underpasses that allow deers to cross under or over roads have been shown to reduce collisions between cars and deers.6
  • Higher tech methods include sensors that activate nearby signs when deers are in the area. These “active signs” may detect seismic ground vibrations, infrared radiation, or the breaking of a microwave, laser or infrared beam.7
animal bridgeIn other countries many methods of reducing collisions between cars and deers are popular. Some of these have been shown to have no effect. However, some methods have proven to be highly effective:2

These measures are largely carried out in the interests of humans who may be injured in collisions with deers or elks. However, once we reject speciesism it’s clear that we should take the interests of all sentient animals, including those in the wild and on farms, into moral consideration.

Therefore, we should try to prevent collisions between cars and animals on roads not only due to the injuries that humans may sustain, but also because of the brutal deaths that deers and elks will continue to endure if we do not pursue such measures.

1 Russel, H. (2013) “Norway’s solution to elk collisions: disco poles”, The Guardian, 11 October [accessed on June 18, 2014].

2 Hedlund, J. H.; Curtis, P. D. & Williams, A. F. (2003) “Methods to reduce traffic crashes involving deer: What works and what does not”, Traffic Injury Prevention, 5, pp. 122-131.

3 This method is being furthered by institutions that don’t work in defense of animals but actually the opposite, even though as a result of their work there are animals who indirectly benefit. See Arizona Game and Fish Department, “State Route 260 ‘Elk Crosswalk’ -2010”, [accessed on 18 June 2014].

4 Andelt, W. F.; Burnham, K. P. & Manning, J. A. (1991) “Relative effectiveness of repellents for reducing mule deer damage”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 55, pp. 341-347. 

Castiov, F. (1999) Testing potential repellents for mitigation of vehicle-induced mortality of wild ungulates in Ontario, Doctoral dissertation, Sudbury: Laurentian University.

5 See Heinrich, H. H. & Predl, S. (1993)Can we landscape to accommodate deer?: The Tracy Estate Research Garden”, Proceedings of the Sixth Eastern Wildlife Damage, 17. 

DVCIC – Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse, Iowa State University Institute for Transportation (2014) “Roadside vegetation management”,  [accessed on 18 June 2014].

6 Woods, J. G. (1990) Effectiveness of fences and underpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway and their impact on ungulate populations project, Calgary: Canadian Parks Service, Natural History Division. 

Putnam, R. J. (1997) “Deer and road traffic accidents: Options for management”, Journal of Environmental Management, 51, pp. 43-57.

7 Mastro, L. L.; Conover, M. R. & Frey, S. N. (2008) “Deer–vehicle collision prevention techniques”, Human–Wildlife Interactions, 2, pp. 80-92 [accessed on 17 June 2014].