COVID-19 related travel restrictions prevented numerous wildlife deaths on roads: A comparative analysis of results from 11 countries
Millions of wild animals are killed annually on roads worldwide. During spring 2020, the volume of road traffic was reduced globally as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We gathered data on wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) from Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and for Scotland and England within the United Kingdom. In all studied countries WVC statistics tend to be dominated by large mammals (various deer species and wild boar), while information on smaller mammals as well as birds are less well recorded. The expected number of WVC for 2020 was predicted on the basis of 2015–2019 WVC time series representing expected WVC numbers under normal traffic conditions. Then, the forecasted and reported WVC data were compared.
The results indicate varying levels of WVC decrease between countries during the COVID-19 related traffic flow reduction (CRTR). While no significant change was determined in Sweden, where the state-wide response to COVID-19 was the least intensive, a decrease as marked as 37.4% was identified in Estonia. The greatest WVC decrease, more than 40%, was determined during the first weeks of CRTR for Estonia, Spain, Israel, and Czechia.
Measures taken during spring 2020 allowed the survival of large numbers of wild animals which would have been killed under normal traffic conditions. The significant effects of even just a few weeks of reduced traffic, help to highlight the negative impacts of roads on wildlife mortality and the need to boost global efforts of wildlife conservation, including systematic gathering of roadkill data.