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07 August 2013
Roadkill is a sad but familiar sight in Britain, and it’s quite common to see a variety of unfortunate wildlife who have perished on roads across the country.
Now a team of researchers led by Dr Sarah Perkins from the School of Biosciences have come up with the uniquely named Project Splatter – a survey of UK wildlife roadkill, building up a comprehensive picture of all the animal species being killed and where in particular it is happening. Over the next 2 years, the data reported will help to produce a ‘roadkill map’ for the whole of the UK.
Project Splatter is a citizen science project which relies on the general public to submit data via social media. ‘Splatter spotters’ report their roadkill sightings on Facebook and Twitter and the data is then collated to establish whether there are any trends forming or hotspots developing. This is the first survey of its kind in the UK and the data could eventually lead to solutions for reducing the numbers of wildlife killed on Britain’s roads.
Dr Sarah Perkins said: "We’ve been surprised at how many reports we’ve received from members of the public so far – surprised because people really seem to enjoy reporting data to us. But the down side to the high number of splatter reported means that our roads could really be taking a high toll on our British Wildlife"
From the data collected, West Sussex is currently emerging as the UK’s roadkill capital while the M5 motorway is also showing a significant cluster of splatter. Across the UK, splat reports include moles, owls, pheasants, polecats, red squirrels, foxes and rabbits. Currently the most common splatter sightings are badgers – it is not yet determined whether this is because their road sense is poor, they are easier for splatter spotters to see or are simply high in numbers in the UK.
Jess Price, Conservation Officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust said: "There does seem to be high levels of road kill sightings in Sussex but this could be because we have a good recording community or perhaps more roads - there is no data currently to explain why. We certainly encourage people to report what they see as these records can tell us a lot about what is happening to our wildlife.
"For example, a few years ago it was fairly common to see a dead hedgehog at the side of the road, now this is a rare sight. Whilst you might think that this is a good thing, actually it is a sign that there a far fewer hedgehogs around then there used to be. Highlighting their decline in this way means we can try and put things into place to raise awareness and help them as numbers are now dangerously low for the UK's only spiny mammal.
"By sending in records of road kill, people can help to identify where they may be hotspots or issues with particular species. This information can then be used by local councils to implement mechanisms to reduce wildlife deaths. For example you may see 'Toad Crossing' signs around Sussex which help to reduce toad deaths on roads during their spring migration."
The Project Splatter team are keen for as many people as possible to record their findings and become splatter spotters. If you spot any splat on your journeys around the UK, then you can report it on Twitter via @projectsplatter or the Project Splatter Facebook page.
Project Splatter on Twitter
Project Splatter on Facebook
School of Biosciences
Image: Splatter map showing roadkill reports from February - June 2013
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