Profiles

Here we present some profiles of common roadkilled animal species. Please help! If you have additional information regarding roadkilled animal species or pictures, please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We want to extend the profiles step by step.

The correct identification of roadkilled animal species is often a real challenge. Sometimes only traces of the animal are preserved or the animal is already so destroyed that a correct identification of the species is hardly possible anymore.

Our profiles of the most frequently reported animal species are a help here.

But not only a mix-up of animal species often happens in the project Roadkill, but also the mix-up of roadkilled animals and objects. So it has already happened to us that a snake on the street suddenly turned out to be a piece of hose, or we stopped to report a mammal, just to realize that it was a lost brown wool sweater.

On this page we want to collect the most frequent mix-ups of animals and objects that have been roadkilled in order to sharpen our eyes for roadkills even more.

If you have already seen objects in front of the camera lens that look like the roadkilled animals from a distance, please send us photos of them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hedgehog vs. manure

Seen from a distance, it is not clear enough whether it is an animal. But if you look closer, you can see that the hedgehog's alleged spines were only the straw in the manure.

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Frog vs. fallen fruit

Here, too, you can hardly see what it is about from a distance. Roadkilled frogs such as the common toad or the green toad are often severely destroyed or already dried out and difficult to determine. A confusion in autumn with fallen fruit such as an apple cannot therefore be ruled out from a distance and can only be avoided on closer inspection.

Another example in the photo gallery is the possibility of confusing a dried banana peel with a frog in rainy weather. Many thanks to our participant DiDoDa for this hint and the photos.

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Snake vs. hose

If you are travelling by car or bicycle, you can hardly tell a hose or bent branch on the road from a snake. But when you get closer, you can quickly see whether it is one of these protected animals or just a lost piece of hose or a fallen branch. If it is a hose, we would be grateful if you could take it with you and dispose it professionally to avoid garbage in nature.

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Small mammal vs. cones

Another example comes from our participant DiDoDa, who observed this interesting confusion of a cone with a small mammal. Viewed from a distance, there may be some confusion, as the brown colour and size may indicate a small mammal.

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Crow vs. plastic fleece

It is often almost impossible to tell the difference between rubbish and roadkilled animals when sitting in a moving car. In the photos, for example, the black plastic fleece or the plastic foil really looks like a crow from a distance. The first impressive example comes from our participant DiDoDa, the second from Mamabird. If it really is plastic, we would be grateful if you could take it with you and to dispose of it professionally in order to avoid waste in nature.

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Blackbird vs. dirt

This somewhat unusual possibility of confusion was sent to us by our participant Mamabird. Here blackbirds seem to lie next to the sidewalk from a distance, but if you get closer you can see that the dirt has fallen off tractor tyres (loamy soil in the tyre profile).

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Bird vs. glove

Really confusingly alike in these photos are an old working glove made of leather and a dove. Our participant DiDoDa stopped with the car to enter an alleged pigeon into the database, only to find an old glove on the road.

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Frog vs. caterpillar

These mix-ups happen again and again: larger invertebrates look like vertebrates from a distance. In this case our participant DiDoDa reported the confusion of a frog with the caterpillar of a (presumably) Hyles galii.

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Mammal > Marten > Pine marten

Pine martens are regarded as culture evaders and are therefore rarely road-killed. Pine martens prefer dense and extensive forests. Pine martens are usually difficult to distinguish from stone martens, especially if you can only see the animal from the vehicle for a short time.

How to identify a roadkilled pine marten?

Differences pine marten vs. stone marten:

  •      Nose is dark. The nose of the stone marten is flesh-colored.
  •      Throat-patch is yellow to yellow-red, and rounded on the bottom. Stone martens have a white throat patch and the bottom deeply forked (no secure identification feature).
  •      Pine marten: underside of the paws are hairy (bales covered). Stone marten: bales are visible.
  •      The pine marten is considered to avoid humans and therefore prefers large closed forests.
  •      The stone marten is considered typical synanthropic therefore occurs in villages and big cities.

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Mammal > Marten > Stone marten

The stone marten is considered typical synanthropic species. So they occur in villages and big cities and therefore often stay close to roads. Stone and pine martens are usually difficult to distinguish from each other, especially if you can only see the animal from the vehicle for a short time.

How to identify a roadkilled stone marten?

Differences pine marten vs. stone marten:

  • Nose is flesh-colored. The nose of the pine marten is dark.
  • Throat-patch is white and the bottom deeply forked. Pine martens have a yellow to yellow-red throat patch and the bottom is rounded (no secure identification feature).
  • Stone marten: bales are visible. Pine marten: underside of the paws are hairy (bales covered). 
  • The stone marten is considered typical synanthropic therefore occurs in villages and big cities.
  • The pine marten is considered to avoid humans and therefore prefers large closed forests.

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Reptile > Snake > Grass Snake

The Grass Snake is most easily recognized by the crescent-shaped, yellowish-white to orange spots on the back of the head. The grass snake is certainly one of the most well known and widespread snakes in Austria and is also frequently reported in the Roadkill project.

How to identify a roadkilled grass snake?

Snakes in general:

Snakes look from afar like a tube or branch, which is located on the road. Only when you get closer, you realize that it is an animal. Snakes have an elongated body, limbs can not be identified. You often do not notice the injury on the roadkilled snake and the animal looks as if it is still alive. This is because when run over they suffer severe internal injuries, but outwardly often remain completely intact. Snakes can be confused only with blindworms in Austria. Blindworms are very difficult to distinguish from snakes when run over. Snakes have intergrown, immovable and transparent eyelids. Snakes have therefore always closed eyelids. However blindworms have movable eyelids. Blindworms can open and shut their eyelids. Moreover blindworms have unlike snakes ear openings.

Grass snakes in particular:
The grass snake has yellowish white to orange, crescent-shaped spots on the back of the head. The head is clearly separated from the trunk. The pupils are round.

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Amphibian > Anuran > Green Toad

Green toads are very often reported in our project. On the one hand, green toads like to migrate and on the other hand, they are relatively easy to recognize due to their spotted skin. In Austria, however, the green toad occurs mainly in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland.

How to identify a roadkilled green toad?

Frogs generally:
There are two ways how frogs are killed on roads. On the one hand they can be rolled over directly from a tire, on the other hand they can be killed by the vacuum under the car. An avoidance maneuver in which one takes the frog between the tires is usually not useful, as speeds above 30 km / h can lead to the death of frogs.

For this reason you will not find plate frogs on roads usually, but veritable burst ones. Sometimes frogs are sitting completely motionless on the street. These are often not dead, but jump off when you touch them. Please don't enter living animals in the database.

Frogs can be identified by:

  • Bare skin (no fur or feathers visible)    
  • No scales apparent
  • No tail

If these three criteria are met, you can enter a frog in the database.

Green toad in particular:
Green toads are mainly crepuscular and nocturnal. The green toad is bright with greenish spots on top, these characteristics usually remain visible even when the carcasses are dried.

Why are frogs killed on roads?

As spring begins, for many amphibians its time to migrate. They leave their wintering grounds and start the often difficult journey to their spawning grounds. But why migrate these animals at all?

In evolution amphibians represent the transition from water living creatures to terrestrial creatures. They can move freely in the countryside, but are bound to standing or slow moving water bodies (except the Alpine salamander) for their propagation. Amphibians generally come back to the water, where they have lived as a larva. At these waters males and females meet for mating and spawning. The "egg" of amphibians are called spawn. After successful spawning, most amphibians keep ashore in search of food. In fall when the temperature drops under a species specific limit, the amphibians move back into their wintering grounds, dig themselves in, or hide under stones or dead wood.

Amphibians winter either near their spawning grounds such as the yellow-bellied toad and European tree frog, or 1-3km away like the grass frog and the common toad or even up to 10km away, such as the green toad. The further away is their spawning grounds from the wintering grounds, the higher of course is also the probability that they have to cross a road during their migration.

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Mammal > Spermophilus

Spermophilus or ground squirrels are colored brown or gray on the top and white underside. The tail is relatively short, as the legs. European ground squirrels live in colonies and are diurnal. The entrances to the squirrel burrows are 5-7 cm large, circular to oval holes. The squirrels leave the caves and building systems especially in the later morning and afternoon hours to go in search of food. When it rains, the animals generally stay in the burrows. Even at very hot times of the day they are hardly visible on the surface.

The diet consists mainly of green plant parts, flowers and seeds. Depending on the supply, they supplement their diet with roots, tubers and bulbs. In addition, smaller invertebrates, especially beetles and caterpillars, are not spurned.

How to identify a roadkilled European ground squirrel?

Ground squirrels are colored brown or gray on the top and white underside. The tail is relatively short, as are the legs. The head has a typical squirrel shape and often you can see the large incisors. The environment in which the run-over animal is discovered, can give an indication to its species. The habitat of the European ground squirrel is all kinds of open habitats, so steppes, semi-deserts, tundra, rocky land and barren mountain ranges. Forest edges and bushy areas are also accepted, but ground squirrels are missing in dense forests. Likelihood of confusion is given with hamsters (yellow-brown on the top, dark underside, several white spots on the cheek and behind the front legs). However, hamsters are easy to distinguish from ground squirrels by their typical coat patterns. If the carcass is already lying for a longer time and the coat is bleached, one can distinguish a ground squirrel by its relatively bushy tail from the European hamster.

Why European ground squirrels are killed on roads?

Ground squirrels occur in vineyards, farmland, fallow land, hay meadows and dry grasslands. Because these areas are sometimes in close proximity to busy roads, ground squirrels are often run over. Through the typical coat color, the ground squirrels are very difficult to detect in the dry grass on the roadside.

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Mammal > Marten > Badger

Badgers are relatively easy to recognize by their characteristic hair pattern. Badgers have a black and white head. From the mouth-corners, the black strips go straight upwards at first and then backwards on both sides of the muzzle. These strips widen over the eyes and the white bordered ears as far as into the neck where they become lighter and run into the silvery gray of the upper side and the flanks.

How to identify a roadkilled European badger?

Badgers are easy to identify by their characteristic coat patterns. Badgers have a black and white drawn head. From the corners of its mouth, the black stripes first run straight up and on both sides of the snout to the back. These stripes widen above the eyes and the white-rimmed ears to the neck, where they are brighter and extend into the silvery gray of the top and the flanks.

In addition, badgers can be identified by the trunk-like snout and rich grave paws. The forefeet also have long down curved claws.

The confusion with other species is hardy given.

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Mammal > Small Mammal > Hamster

Here we understand by hamster the field hamster. The field hamster is a classical synanthropic species. Its original habitat, small structured fields with arains are becoming less and less, and so the hamster can now also be found in the city. As food, the field hamster prefers green plant-parts, berries and fruits. But also insects, small-mammals and worms are on its menu. Hamsters dig burrows, in which they spend a large part of their days.

How to identify roadkilled hamster?

Hamsters are relatively easy to identify by the typical coat color. They usually have a yellow-brown top and a dark, almost black underside. On the flanks, on the cheek, before and behind the front legs are several white spots. The area around the muzzle and around the eyes is reddish brown, the feet and the tip of the nose are white. They have well-developed cheek pouches, the feet are provided with wide and well-developed claws. They have a 4-6cm long, almost hairless tail.
Most likely, they can be confused with the European ground squirrel. If the coat color is no help, then the bushy tail of the ground squirrel compared to the almost hairless tail of the hamster serves as a simple differentiator.

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Mammal > Cat

Very often cats that have been run over are reported in the project. Since there are approx. 1.5 million domestic cats in Austria, the reported cats are mostly free-range domestic cats and only in exceptional cases wild cats. Typical characteristics, which often remain recognizable also with strongly destroyed carcasses, are paws, head and fur color.

How to identify a roadkilled cat?

In general cats are easy to identify. Characteristics that often remain recognizable even with heavily damaged carcasses, are paws, head and coat color. With the exception of wildcats there are no animals in our latitudes that could be easily confused with cats.
Wildcats, however, are difficult to distinguish from gray-tabby domestic cats. The most important features are shown in the chart below. Should you find a gray tabby cat and suspect it could be a wildcat, we ask you to document the spot exactly - our partners from Projekt Wildkatze sift the project roadkill database for wildcat entries to find out whether any wildcats are affected.

engl Unterscheidungsmerkmale Grafik

Why wild cats are killed on roads?

Wildcats have much larger territories, in females territories have an area between 300 and 600 hectares, in males between 1000 and 3000 hectares in size. The wildcat preferres habitat boundaries between forest and open countryside - open countryside exists in Austria almost exclusively where farming takes place. Therefore a proximity to the people and thus also to roads is present in the habitat of the wildcat.

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Mammal > Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are easily identified by their spines. The habitats of hedgehogs are diverse and therefore hedgehogs are widespread throughout Austria: They live in undergrowth-rich, light deciduous and mixed forests, but also in grasslands and cultivated landscapes such as gardens. In the urban area, they are mainly found on the outskirts of the city.

How to identify a roadkilled hedgehog?

Hedgehogs can be clearly identified by their spines. Even if the dead hedgehog is lying on the street for a long time, has dried up and has often been run over, the spines are still clear to see.

Why hedgehogs are killed on roads?

In late spring hedgehogs leave their wintering grounds. Males leave the wintering grounds about 3-4 weeks before the females and embark on the search for food and later for mating partners. The mating season begins in late spring (April / May) and ends in September. Hedgehogs are basically loners, only to mate and in the breeding season they can be observed in company. Unlike many other mammals, hedgehogs defend no territorial boundaries. Depending on food availability and potential mating partners, hedgehogs move more or less far away. In order to find enough food, hedgehogs need an area of ​​up to 40 ha. If a high food supply prevails, as in gardens or arable land, the area may also decrease to 5 ha. Basically, males need about twice as much area as females.
In this area requirement it is no surprise that hedgehogs often need to cross a road. As it is well known, hedgehogs are not among the fastest animals (they move at an average speed of 2 m / min.) and therefore need very long to cross a street. Furthermore, they do not have a shortening reaction; on the contrary, hedgehogs put at risk roll up and protect themselves with their spines. Normally a very successful defense strategy, against cars unfortunately ineffective, if not counterproductive, which is reflected in the number of roadkilled hedgehogs on our map.

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Mammal > Fox

Foxes belong to the family of dogs and are therefore often difficult to distinguish from dogs.

Foxes are adaptable and flexible. This is not only expressed by their broad food spectrum, it is also reflected in their social system. Foxes can live together in pairs, but a male can also form a small group with several females. Since foxes have a small stomach, they cannot eat much at once. They hide prey and build up food depots, which they use in bad times.

How to identify a roadkilled red fox?

Foxes belong to the family of dogs and are therefore often difficult to distinguish from dogs. However, roadkilled dogs are very rare in contrast to the high number of accidents with foxes. The red fox has a red coat on the top and a white coat at the bottom. Wherein the hue is very variable and depends on the area of distribution. The lower parts of the legs and the back sides of the ears are black. Even if the accident is long ago, most of the bushy tail remains.

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Mammal > Hare

The field-hare is mainly twilight and night-active, however, at the beginning of the reproductive-time in the late winter and in the spring also day-active. The animals are loners outside the mating season and rest during the day in flat, mostly well covered hollows called Sasse. At danger, they "press" motionless at the ground and seize the escape only in the last moment. Hares reach speeds of up to 70 km per hour over short distances and jump up to 2 m high. The animals can also swim well.

How to identify a roadkilled hare?

Hares are about 50 cm long. The fur color is variable yellowish gray, ocher-brown or reddish-brown with yellow shades and black speckled. The underside is creamy white. The ears are pale gray and show at the top a black, roughly triangular spot. The tail is black on the upper side and white on the lower side. In winter coat, the sides of the head, including the base of the ears are white and the hips are grayish.

Hares are thrown because of their size, either at the side or the middle of the road and are often run over several times. Identifying features are the size, coat color, the long ears and hind legs. The ears and the hind legs usually remain in often run over or longer lying animals and serve as a good identifying feature.

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Mammal > Squirrel

Squirrels are common all over Austria and can often be observed. The original habitat of the squirrels in our latitudes are deciduous and mixed forests. As strong synanthropic species, however, they are to be found also in gardens and parks frequently. Due to their proximity to humans, squirrels are increasingly exposed to busy roads, which increases the susceptibility of a roadkill.

How to identify a roadkilled red squirrel?

You can see the bushy tail of the squirrel very good even if the carcass is badly destroyed. The characteristic coat colors (light red / brown to brown black, the undersideis always clear white or cream) are also a good feature which is largely maintained. The typical ear-tufts can also serve to identify, but are only part of the winter fur and are completely absent during the summer months.
The likelihood of confounding squirrels with dormice (fat dormouse, hazel dormouse) is given. Although dormice, however, are much smaller and have less bushy tails.

Why are red squirrels killed on roads?

The original habitat of squirrels in our latitudes are deciduous and mixed forests. As a strong synanthropic species, they are often found in gardens and parks. Due to their proximity to people, squirrels are increasingly exposed to busy roads, which increases the vulnerability to be roadkill victims. Squirrels are agile and fast climbers, but on the ground they are just hopping, which makes them relatively slow go. The home range of squirrels varies depending of distribution and can be up to 50 ha, whereupon males usually are more active than females. Preferably, squirrels move further over treetops. On roads, there is often no treetops - treetops contact for safety reasons. Therefore, squirrels have no possibility to "bridge" the gap over a road, but have to move on the ground. Remedy could be a so-called "squirrel rope", which is stretched from tree to tree across the road.

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