The COVID-19 pandemic provides a rare opportunity to reveal the impact of reduced human activity on wildlife.
I compared traffic volume and wildlife roadkill data along 18 km of highway before, during and after a 3-month period of COVID-19 restrictions with baseline data from the previous four years.
Three marsupial herbivores comprised 89 per cent of the 1820 roadkills recorded during the 4.5-year survey period: rufous-bellied pademelon Thylogale billardierii (31.5 per cent of total), common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula (29.8 per cent) and red-necked wallaby Notamacropus rufogriseus (27.9 per cent).
During April 2020, when human activity was most restricted in the study area, traffic volume decreased by 36 per cent (i.e. by an average 13,520 vehicle movements per day) and wildlife roadkill decreased by 48 per cent (i.e. from 44 to 23 roadkills). However, when restrictions eased, traffic volume and wildlife roadkill returned to baseline levels indicating that the respite was brief in terms of animal welfare and of limited conservation value for these widespread and abundant species.
Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that even short periods of traffic reduction or road closures could be used as part of a management strategy for the conservation of endangered wildlife populations and re-wildling programs where roadkill is a risk factor.
Michael M Driessen 1.Biol Conserv. 2021; 109012.doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109012. 1School of Technology, Environments and Design, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 50, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.