Surveying Attitudes toward Reptiles on Roads: Questionnaire Responses Do Not Directly Translate to Behavioral Action
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Roads pose significant threats to reptiles, and understanding the varying perceptual biases of motorists to different taxa may help determine management strategies for urban roads around important refuges such as wetlands. We surveyed Western Australian motorists online, asking them to rank their degree of concern for animal welfare, vehicle damage, and personal safety when hypothetically involved in a vehicle collision with 10 different animal taxa, including reptiles. Respondents also ranked their rescue likelihood for these taxa. We then observed motorist responses to snakes and lizards in the field, where we placed rubber models and controls on the shoulder of an urban road bordering a wetland in Perth, Western Australia. We also estimated the probability of a reptile being struck while crossing the study road at two different road vehicle densities. The online survey respondents claimed high mean concern for the welfare of animals on roads (M = 8.02 ± 2.73 SD out of 10) and low concern for vehicle damage (M = 2.87 ± 2.75) and personal safety (M = 2.91 ± 2.88). Respondents also claimed high mean rescue likelihood (M = 7.06 ± 3.40). In contrast, motorists observed in the field generally ignored objects, including reptiles, on the roadside (79% of n = 1,500). There were no observed intentional strikes on reptiles, one motorist made a rescue attempt (bobtail lizard), and all other responses were to slow down or move away from the treatment. Estimates of strike probability for a reptile crossing the study road at a low traffic volume (2.23 vehicles·min-1) was > 75% for slow-moving (1 m·min-1) reptiles, but reduced to ≤ 16% if they were moving quickly (60 m·min-1). Although motorists did not intentionally strike model reptiles, surveyed attitudes did not directly translate to behavioral action, and crossing a road is risky for an urban reptile.
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