Roadkill and Daylight Saving

Yawn! The clocks changed in Europe this week to move to summer time. What that meant was that we were all deprived of an hours precious sleep in the morning. 8AM was in reality 7AM! Driving to work this morning, stuck in the usual traffic jams, I go wondering on how changing clocks arbitrarily affects lifeforms that do not wear watches or have a concept of daylight saving time (which includes every known life form other than a small subset of humans that live in parts of Europe, North America, some countries in South America, parts of Australia and New Zealand).

So the question I posed to myself was: is there an increased prevalence of road-kill that correlates with change of clocks? At one level, this may seem a ludicrous question, but it is a logical one nonetheless. Wildlife tend to follow sunlight and sunset to set their circadian rhythms. A part of their eating and roaming habits around human settlements is governed by human activity. Grazing deer and rabbits are common early spring mornings (6-7AM) just before human activity begins, but by 8AM they are all gone into hiding, or away from our sight.  What happens when, suddenly, we decide to change our activity times and begin earlier or later? Is there an increased rate of animals being caught by surprise and getting killed on our roads and highways? How long does this last? Which change of clocks is worse for the creatures, spring or autumn?

It turns out there are others who have asked the same question before? Here are some articles and links that are relevant:

There isn’t much scientific literature to support either argument: that one change of time causes more accidents than the other, or how this affects the rate of animals being killed on the roads. In any case, the effects will be short – at most a day or so before wildlife adapts to changes in human behaviour. Spring certainly does see more road kill (visually). This is potentially directly proportional to the number of animals active on the roads, and the fact that visibility is better now than in October. I would personally believe that the change from summer to standard time probably is more dangerous that the other way around. Suddenly more people are driving in the dark – increasing chances of accidents both between vehicles and with wildlife.

So much for idle thoughts!! 🙂

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Jawahar

Scientist, hobby photographer and amateur gardener

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