Can virtual fences reduce wombat road mortalities?

Hayley J. Stannard, Marie B. Wynan, Ray J. Wynan, Brendan A. Dixon, Sujatha Mayadunnage, Julie M. Old

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Roadkill is a worldwide issue that can cause local population extinctions. In Australia numerous species are affected, however the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is particularly vulnerable due to its preference for disturbed habitats. Collisions with motor vehicles causes significant damage to the vehicle and sometimes the driver, as well as wounding or killing the wombat. Virtual fences are light and sound-based devices, originally developed in Austria that can be used to reduce roadkill through mitigation. They have had mixed results. In this study a virtual fence was installed along a 1.5 km stretch of road in semi-rural NSW, Australia, with the aim of reducing wombat roadkill through the use of this form of mitigation strategy. The number of roadkilled wombats was counted before and after the fence was installed in March 2020. Prior to the fence being installed 23 wombats were killed and after the fence was installed six wombats were killed. Along Old Bega Road, outside of the fenced area 64 wombats were killed pre-fence installation and 17 post fence installation. Bare-nosed wombats are semi-fossorial ecosystem engineers with an important role in the ecosystem and despite being listed as Least Concern are readily impacted by roadkill. Virtual fencing implemented in regions that have high wombat roadkill rates may aid in reducing road deaths and species conservation. However, we recommend that more research is required to assess virtual fencing, as a roadkill mitigation strategy, including an investigation into a larger number of species in a range of different habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106414
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalEcological Engineering
Volume172
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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