Accounting for cloud cover and circannual variation puts the effect of lunar phase on deer-vehicle collisions into perspective.

Published online
08 Jan 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Cerri, J. & Stendardi, L. & Bužan, E. & Pokorny, B.
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enThis link goes to a English sectionslThis link goes to a English section Although several studies have focused on the influence of moonlight on deer-vehicle collisions, findings have been inconsistent. This may be due to neglect of the effects of cloud cover, a major impediment to moon illumination and circannual variation in both deer and human activity. We assessed how median cloud cover interacted with the illuminated fraction of the moon in affecting daily roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) roadkill in Slovenia (Central Europe). Data included nationwide roadkill (n = 49,259), collected between 2010 and 2019 by hunters, as required by law. Roadkill peaked under medium to high cloud cover and decreased during nights with low or extremely high cloudiness. This pattern was more pronounced on nights with a full moon. However, the effects of moon illumination and cloud cover had a lower predictive potential than circannual variation, as collisions clearly peaked in April/May, July and August/September. Our results suggest that moonlight could influence roe deer movements through compensatory foraging. However, on nights with a full moon, collisions could also be affected by weather. On bright nights, roe deer might be less active due to increased human presence and sustained vehicular traffic. Then, with medium to high cloud cover and also rainfall, human presence in the environment may be low enough to increase deer movements, but vehicular traffic can still be intermediate, maximizing the risk of collisions. Finally, with overcast skies, widespread rainfall can reduce both traffic volume and human outdoor activity, decreasing the risk of collisions. Moon illumination may indeed affect wildlife-vehicle collisions and roadkill, but its effects should be quantified as a function of cloud cover. Moreover, to make studies truly comparable, research about wildlife-vehicle collisions should also account for time of the year. Policy implications. Because collisions with roe deer peak at particular periods of the year, signs should be installed seasonally. By doing so, they would warn drivers about the risk, improve drivers' awareness and increase their safety. Moreover, as collisions also increase on nights with a full moon and overcast skies, interactive warning signs that are activated by ground illumination should also be useful.

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