Bad News for Reptiles

By on May 1, 2008
RoadKing Mag

Who are these people?

A recent study showed that nearly 3 percent of drivers change their path in order to intentionally run over turtles and snakes on the roadside.

A group of Canadian researchers chose to examine this deadly phenomenon because of the naturally slow reproduction rate of snakes and turtles, made worse by their susceptibility to getting hit by cars. Snakes slither out to roadways to bask in the sun, and turtles bury their eggs in the sandy gravel at roadsides. Getting a sense of the level of danger for the reptiles could lead to finding ways to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

And while roadkill numbers had been studied before, the deliberate killing of these animals had not been investigated.

The study was conducted using replicas of snakes and turtles. A Styrofoam cup was also alternately placed in the road as a possible target. A grease line in the middle of the road let researchers determine how often drivers slipped past the center line by mistake, so they could adjust for deliberate hits versus accidental hits. Then they watched.

The fake snake was the biggest target for reptile-killing drivers, hit 2.4 times more often than the accidental hit rate and 1.9 times more often than the cup. The turtles were hit 1.7 times more often than the accidental hit rate and 1.4 times more often than the cup. Male drivers were four times more likely than female drivers to hit the snake or turtle.

The drivers weren’t completely bloodthirsty — a small percentage of men and women stopped to rescue the reptiles in the road, before discovering they were fake.

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