Do the numbers and locations of road-killed anuran carcasses accurately reflect impacts of vehicular traffic?

Christa Beckmann, Richard Shine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Road-killed animals are easy and inexpensive to survey, and may provide information about species distributions, abundances, and mortality rates. As with any sampling method, however, we need to explore methodological biases in such data. First, how does an animal's behavior (e.g., use of the center vs. periphery of the road) influence its vulnerability to vehicular traffic? Second, how rapidly do post-mortem processes (scavenging by other animals, destruction or displacement by subsequent vehicles) change the numbers and locations of roadkills? Our surveys of anurans on a highway in tropical Australia show that different anuran species are distributed in different ways across the width of the road, and that locations of live versus dead animals sometimes differ within a species. Experimental trials show that location on the road affects the probability of being hit by a vehicle, with anurans in the middle of the road begin hit 35% more often than anurans on the edges; thus, center-using species are more likely to be hit than edge-using taxa. The magnitude of post-mortem displacement and destruction by subsequent vehicles depended on anuran species and body size. The mean parallel displacement distance was 122.7 cm, and carcasses of thin-skinned species exhibited greater post-mortem destruction. Scavenging raptors removed 73% of carcasses, most within a few hours of sunrise. Removal rates were biased with respect to size and species. Overall, our studies suggest that investigators should carefully evaluate potential biases before using roadkill counts to estimate underlying animal abundances or mortality rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-101
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bufo marinus
  • cane toad
  • frog
  • invasive species
  • roadkill
  • scavenger


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