Changing Planet

Roundup: Roadkill Research

By Grace Matelich

No one loves driving down the road and seeing an animal plastered to the pavement or, worse, flattening one themselves. There is no denying that we share the Earth with these animals—but perhaps we don’t share enough.

Alberto Contreras cycling through South America. (Photo by Lucy Buchanan Parker)

The United States alone has more than 4 million miles of roads. Whether a highway or a country lane, these throughways divide wildlife habitats, making the likelihood of an animal-vehicle collision greater than ever before.

Lucy Buchanan Parker collecting data. (Photo by Alberto Contreras)
Lucy Buchanan Parker collecting data. (Photo by Alberto Contreras)

It is estimated that anywhere between 725,000 and 1.5 million animal-vehicle crashes occur in the United States per year, resulting in an average of 200 human fatalities and costing $8 billion in damages. Not surprisingly, thousands of animal deaths go unreported, but in 2008, the Federal Highway Administration reported that between one and two million large animals are killed annually. However, these estimates vary greatly—one more reason why collecting roadkill data is so important.

ASC is working with a partner scientist at the University of California-Davis Road Ecology Center to learn more about roadkill worldwide. Our athletes—mostly cyclists and runners—are gathering data to help the center determine which species are most affected and whether roadkill “hotspots” exist. The project’s ultimate goal is to reduce the number of vehicle-caused animal deaths.

So far, 305 people have collected 3,628 data points for the ASC’s Roadkill Project. Check out our roadkill map here: Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 1.40.31 PM

Animal-vehicle collision numbers are highest in the spring and fall, so stay alert as warm weather approaches.
Learn more about Roadkill and other ASC projects on our website, the Field Notes blog, and by following us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+.

Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration.

National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor’s 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine “hero”, in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men’s Journal’s “50 Most Adventurous Men.” In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow.

Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media