How to avoid becoming roadkill


Today is World Wildlife Day and while most riders love seeing amazing wildlife on their ride, almost every rider has a story about creating or almost becoming roadkill.

Unfortunately there are no statistics that show the lethal nature of wildlife or stray livestock to riders, but we don’t need figures to tell us it is an ever-present danger on our country roads.

Roadside wildlife in Zion National Park, Utah
Roadside wildlife in Zion National Park, Utah

If you think it’s bad in Australia or the US, how about Brazil where 475 million animals a year are struck on the nation’s roads! That’s about 15 animals per second or twice the country’s human population. Brazil is working on creating roadkill hotspots by gathering information from motorists about roadkill they see. The information is stored and provided in an app that motorists can use to warn them of dangerous zones.

An app could be handy, or maybe roadkill hotspots on a GPS like speed camera alerts. Until such hi-tech solutions are available, there are other lo-tech tips you can follow to avoid becoming roadkill and preserving our wildlife.


Obviously the most important is to avoid riding between dusk and early morning. This is when animals tend to roam around for food and when their brown hides are more difficult to see. But I’ve also known riders to hit animals in the middle of the day, so there is no time when you are totally safe. You always need to be on alert.


You should always be scanning the sides of the road for animals – dead or alive. Early detection can help prevent a collision by giving you time to slow down and work out an exit strategy. Don’t just use your eyes … use your nose, too. If you smell roadkill, it means there are more animals about.

Sheep can make a sudden “ewe-turn”


If there is dense bush on one side of the road, ride close to the edge of the lane as far away from the bush as possible. In remote country regions, you can even ride on the opposite side of the road for a short while to give you as much distance as possible from animals lurking in roadside bushes and trees. The common country tip is to ride in the centre of the road to give yourself the maximum buffer zone.

roadkillSLOW DOWN

Slow down when the danger increases, such as if dense bush is close to the road, or when entering a national park or when riding through unfenced farming land. If you do encounter an animal on the road, the only way to avoid hitting it is to slow down. Hitting or glancing even a small animal at speed can send you flying. Wash off as much speed as you can and hold your course. Wait until the last second to decide on avoidance action.


Some animals behave more predictably than others. Usually packs of animals will head in the same direction, so you simply aim for the rear of the pack. However, I’ve aimed for the rear of a herd of sheep only to have them do a complete u-turn (ewe-turn?) and surround my bike. Luckily I was able to slow down and just bounce off a couple.


I’ve tried one of those devices that you place on the front of your bike that creates a high-pitched whistle which apparently only animals can hear. The noise is supposed to disperse the animals. However, I find it doesn’t work on kangaroos for which it is mainly intended, but it does work on birds.

Watch for the young bolters


Don’t underrate the effect of large birds to cause havoc for riders. I’ve had my hand knocked off the handlebars when I hit a crow at highway speeds. I’d hate to hit one of those big eagles! If you see birds on the road, they are probably picking at roadkill and are too preoccupied to notice your approaching bike. Don’t just hope that they will disperse. Give them a warning honk in plenty of time so they will scatter.

Take care around livestock


A friend of mine with a Goldwing claims the loud stereo on his bike works to disperse roos and other wildlife. I’ve tucked in behind him and seen it in action and he’s right. Any loud noise will work. Sudden noises are better than the constant whine or rumble of your approaching bike. Gun the engine every now and then, or blow the horn especially as you crest a hill or round a blind corner. It alerts the animals and hopefully they will head for the bushes. I have never seen as many kangaroos in one place as I did when riding through the Brindabella National Park west of Canberra. I was blowing the horn so frequently I just resorted to doing it every 10 seconds, just in case.


Most livestock allowed to roam beside the roads are accustomed to the noise of traffic and won’t be alarmed. However, young animals and horses can be quite skittish, so it is best to slow down and even pull in the clutch to quieten your exhaust noise as you roll by.

Kangaroos are in plague proportions


I’ve encountered just about every type of wildlife and livestock possible in Australia and many in the US, but the most unpredictable would have to be the kangaroo. It stops, looks at you, then hops away, then turns around and hops straight back in your path. Sometimes they just dart out of the bushes and run straight into you. A friend had his front wheel taken out from under him by a small rock wallaby. He didn’t even see it; next thing he was sliding along the ground. Roos are in plague proportions and are a menace on our roads. Sorry to all animal lovers, but I’m in full support of culling their population. Meanwhile, the best course of action if you see a kangaroo at the side of the road and you are travelling too fast to be able to stop is not to blow the horn. That will only startle it into an erratic response. Most times a roo on the side of the road will be too busy grazing on the “green pick” to be startled by the gradually increasing rumble of your approaching bike.


There is no simple guaranteed answer to prevent you from becoming roadkill and protecting our wildlife, but if you use some of these tips, it you should increase your chances of a safe ride.


  1. I live in an area highly populated by roos and wallabies. I try not to ride home late at night on my bike if I can help it. I have to admit it’s the only time I am over the top cautious and a bit nervous.

  2. you forgot pigs.

    I got cleaned up by one a couple of hundred Ks south of Darwin, I just saw a black blur and suddenly there was no bike under me. He ran straight into the front wheel, from the side.

    Tough little buggers.

  3. Native animals are not in “plague proportions”. Humans are in plague proportions. I fully support the culling of humans, especially those wih such an attitude i.e. animals should just get out of the way of human activities. Humans need to adjust to the environment. For example, surfers and swimmers should be fully cognisant that whenever they go into shark territory, i.e. the sea, they accept a risk, albeit miniscule. If you don’t wnat to hit wildlife, don’t ride at night and slow down if there is a likelihood of animals being present.

    1. Kangaroos are in plague proportions. Since European settlement land has been cleared, pastures planted and water supplies developed. This has given the kangaroos much more food and water. There are currently about twice the number roos than there would be naturally.

  4. I was riding from Adelaide to Flinders ranges during the day. One stretch of road had small shrubs & trees either side, I was watching carefully when one of the shrubs suddenly grew emu legs & ran straight out infront missing me by inches (it was an emu in case you didn’t get it). Then I noticed roo’s ahead beside the road, they seem to get more nervous the closer I got, then suddenly bolt out across the road right infront of me at the last second. I slowed & went between a couple of groups breaking hard as they ran out infront, am not sure how the hell I missed them! Very lucky! I am still trying to work them out – maybe they hear the noise & are trying to work out if you are a threat or going to give chase, then last second decide you are & make a break for it, hence running straight across infront of vehicles?! Either way, be careful out there!

    1. Unlike crows that seem to have quite a bit of road sense, Roos seem
      to have no comprehension of what a road is, so as far as they are
      concerned they are taking avoiding action, just keeping your
      speed down to give them time to move is probably best,
      Or wait for a semi or b-double to tuck in behind .

      1. If you tuck in behind a truck you can’t see what is happening in front. The truck might brake suddenly and if you are too close you will be in trouble. The truck might run straight over a roo (dead or alive) and by the time you see it is too late to avoid it. Hanging back a bit behind the truck does not help because I have seen plenty of roos let the first vehicle pass then dart across the road behind it. I prefer to be where I have a clear view ahead.

        1. If you ride just about anywhere between dusk and dawn these days
          you are playing russian roulette with the wildlife .Sitting behind something
          big can increase the odds in your favour, most big rigs will not brake for roo’s
          True I once nearly collected a dead sheep that a truck in front of me straddled.
          But on another occasion the semi i was sitting behind took out a bull.
          it pushed the bull bar back into the engine bay and wrote off the truck.
          i just ran over a few bits of steak.

  5. I lived in western NSW many years ago and there was a story of a Harley rider hitting an eagle and crashing.
    I myself had many near misses with various wildlife but the worst was when I was riding my KLR650 over Barrington Tops and nearly running into a band of Brumbies. You don’t want to run into a horse that’s kicking out.

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