Number of animals killed on Czech roads shoots up in five years

Photo: Jan Ševčík / Czech Radio

Statistics show that the number of collisions with animals on Czech roads has increased markedly in recent years. What is more, experts warn that the real figure is actually much higher, due to the limited scope of available statistics. The main reasons include high numbers of deer and current agriculture policy, but potentially also the impact of drought.

Photo: Jan Ševčík / Czech Radio
Last year a total of 12,394 collisions with animals on Czech roads were registered. Five years ago the number was just under 7,500. The accidents often include crashes with large wildlife, such as roe deer, and have even resulted in serious injury and death for some drivers. For animals, such collisions tend to be fatal.

Dr. Tomáš Kušta from the Czech University of Life Sciences says that their frequency may actually be much higher.

“The real numbers are likely much higher than the official data. Some estimates exist. But there is no statistic that provides a reliable number. For example according to some estimates such that there are 50,000 or 70,000 collisions with roe deer per year, which are high numbers. To give you a perspective, just over 100,000 roe deer are hunted in the Czech Republic, so it is a problem.”

A Ministry of Transport online application that seeks to compile information from state sources and registered members of the public is currently seen as one of the best data sources.

The problem is that collisions with smaller animals such as rabbits and hedgehogs rarely cause any property damage and therefore tend not to be registered. Yet it is precisely small animals that are most affected, says Dr. Kušta.

"I am not saying that this is a complete threat to their existence, but small game, animals such as the hare or pheasant, are particularly at risk from collisions. Hare populations in particular are significantly decreased this way."

A wide range of measures has been undertaken to prevent animal collisions. They include the construction of under- and overpasses as well as fences. Volunteer organisations have also been using tactics such as the placement of scent repellents along roads and so-called optical fences.

Photo: Barbora Němcová
While Dr. Kušta believes these steps are beneficial, he says that there is a lack of a wider, conceptual solution to the problem.

Asked about the main causes for the increase, he says it is most likely the overpopulation of ungulates (including deer and wild boar) as well as current agriculture policy, whose focus on wide blocks of fields helps boost their numbers.

In recent months, some have also argued that the extreme droughts currently affecting the Czech Republic could be forcing animals to cross roads. Dr. Kušta says this is a possibility but is more sceptical.

“It could certainly be one of the reasons, but I dare not say that it is the main factor and neither do I know of any concrete data that would support this argument.”