When you think about roadkill, probably the first animal that comes to mind is the whitetail deer, right? It’s certainly the most visible to many driving Americans, and it’s the animal those of us in the nation’s heartland are most fearful of engaging with our car’s front bumper.
After deer, depending on the part of country you inhabit, the next critters you may consider as popular roadside attractions are the opossum or armadillo, those often-squashed fatalities of both Interstate and backroad.
But a 16-month scientific study performed by researchers at Purdue University in Indiana found that the most numerous victims of Firestones and Michelins are not slow-moving or headlight-mesmerized mammals—not by a long shot. Rather surprisingly, appearing atop the roadkill carte du jour by a wide, 93-percent margin are amphibians.
The study findings are published in the most recent issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology.
Collecting data from four different Hoosier roadways, the researchers found that amphibians comprised 10,515 of the total body count. The most common species was the bullfrog, with 1,671 killed. Coming in a distant fourth—trailing the green frog (172), tiger salamander (142) and American toad (111)--was the Virginia (common) opossum at a mere 79.
Rounding out our Outdoor Newshound “Roadkill Top Ten” is the leopard frog at 74; raccoon, 43; deer mouse, 39; cottontail rabbit, 37; chimney swift, 36 and garter snake at 35.
Only four whitetail were among the Indiana blacktop victims, placing venison significantly behind frog legs on the carrion buffet.
It should be noted that all the study areas in the Boilermaker research project were near or adjacent to wetlands, which to some degree helps explain the abundance of bullfrogs.
Researchers also noted that due to “carcass degradation” (which, in layman’s terms means flat, moldy and chewed on by crows and buzzards), many of the animals were unidentifiable.