Title: Linking European hare (Lepus europaeus) vehicle collisions with landscape structure with datasets from citizen scientists and hunters.
The world's expanding road networks and the associated fragmentation of the landscape have numerous negative consequences for wildlife. This is rendered most apparent by accidents involving wildlife, i.e. collisions between animals and vehicles, which can be fatal to animals. One animal that is frequently involved in accidents is the European hare (Lepus europaeus).
This research explores whether (i) roadkill datasets from the citizen science project Roadkill.at correlate with data gathered professionally by hunters concerning accidents involving European hares and (ii) if land cover and landscape structure differ between roadkills reported by hunters or citizen scientists. We considered roadkill data for 2013 and 2014 reported from the province of Lower Austria. The spatial and landscape-related analysis and evaluation of roadkill specimens was carried out with the aid of a geographic information system. In order to carry out a landscape-related evaluation, three different radii around each reported roadkill specimen were analysed, intended to represent the home range of the hare based on the varying reports of home range size of hares and the minimum mapping unit of CORINE land cover data and were analysed with series of Mann-Whitney U tests.
The datasets investigated show that accidents involving European hares are particularly common in areas with large proportions of arable land. While the hunters' dataset reported that hares in areas with significantly higher proportions of arable land and heterogeneous agricultural land were found on roadsides away from settlements, the citizens participating in the citizen science project reported hares in environments with significantly higher proportions of residential and industrial areas and more motorways and main roads.
Comparing the two datasets shows differences in the quantity of reported road-kills, which can influence the results of the studies.