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What to do if you run into wildlife on Australian roads

Driving in the Australian country or outback can be blissful. Long, winding roads beside bushland, sweeping rural views and acres of sheep-dotted pasture.

By Shell on Jan. 13, 2021

Australia’s landscape is covered by more than 900,000 kilometres of roads, and an estimated four million Australian mammals are hit by cars and trucks every year.

It’s a devastating statistic and highlights the importance of being prepared should your vehicle strike wildlife such as kangaroos, wombats, emus, possums – even camels – on the road. Many endangered wildlife, such as the Queensland cassowary or the Tasmanian devil, are under increasing threat from cars. Here’s what you need to think about.

Be prepared

Run-ins with wildlife, particularly kangaroos and koalas, occur mostly at dawn, dusk or at night, so avoid driving at these times. On country roads, focus a long way ahead and on verges for wildlife. If an animal starts crossing ahead, slow to 20km/h or less. Allow plenty of time to brake and be aware that animals, whether native or livestock, may move unpredictably. Don’t swerve to avoid hitting an animal if there’s any danger you could collide with another car.

Stay safe

After a collision, check vehicle occupants’ safety, then the animal and the state of your vehicle. Call the emergency services if people are injured. If not, take a moment to check it’s safe to get out. Are you opening the door into oncoming traffic? What terrain will you be stepping into? Don’t risk your life.

Colliding with an animal

If a native animal has been hurt, you should contact the wildlife authorities in the state you are in, such as Wildlife and Information Rescue Service (WIRES) in NSW. Drivers aren’t expected to care for, or give first aid to, stricken animals. But if it’s safe to do so, approach the animal calmly, cover it with a towel or blanket to keep it warm and quiet while waiting for wildlife experts. Take care, as animals, big or small, can become aggressive when injured.

If the animal hasn’t survived, move it to the side of the road but check if kangaroos, koalas, wombats and possums have young in their pouch. Always wash your hands after handling any animal.

If you’ve struck a domestic animal – such as a cat, dog, goat, horse, donkey, mule, sheep or pig – you’re advised to contact a vet or take the animal to a veterinary hospital. You should then contact the owner (if possible), police or the RSPCA. If you come across an injured bat, by careful not to touch it. You may be at risk of contracting the rare Australian bat lyssavirus.

In central or remote Australia, keep an eye out for camels, and remember native scavengers such as wedge-tailed eagles, ravens and dingoes may be feeding on roadkill carcasses.

If your car is damaged

Call the police if you need help and stay with the vehicle until they, or a tow truck, arrives. Some comprehensive car insurance policies will cover you when you hit an animal; others provide for a tow truck and repairer. Check to see what your insurance policy covers.

Wildlife authorities contacts

  • The WIRES nationwide contact number is 1300 596 457. Otherwise, ring these numbers in each state and territory:
  • ACT: RSPCA ACT - 02 6287 8100 (during business hours), or WIRES 1300 094 737
  • NSW: WIRES - 1300 094 737
  • QLD: RSPCA Queensland - 1300 264 625
  • VIC: Wildlife Victoria - 03 8400 7300, Warriors 4 Wildlife: 0427 624 240
  • WA: Wildcare - 08 9474 9055
  • TAS: Wildlife Management Branch - 1300 827 727
  • SA: RSPCA SA - 1300 477 722
  • NT: Wildcare on 08 89 886 121 or 0408 885 341

You can also download Roadkill Reporter, an app designed to map roadkill hotspots and help facilitate safe animal pathways near roads. 

Disclaimer

Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

Where information, recommendations, opinions or ideas have been sourced from third parties external to Viva Energy (Third Party Information), Viva Energy cannot be certain that the Third Party Information is accurate, current or complete, nor should a mention of any business, product, service or website of a third party be taken as a recommendation, approval or endorsement of, or warranty or claim regarding, that business, product, service or website.