Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 405–418 | Cite as

The presence of rabbits adjacent to roads increases polecat road mortality

  • R. Barrientos
  • L. Bolonio
Original Paper


Road mortality is an increasing problem for terrestrial vertebrate conservation due to the increase of both road numbers and vehicle flow. We hypothesize that the probability of a predator being killed on the road is related to the presence of its prey adjacent to the road, which is likely to be related to the use that these predators make of road verges. We aim to identify the features of specific stretches of road where road-kills of a predator (European polecat) occur in Mediterranean landscapes, including the presence of its main prey (European rabbit) and landscape and road features. We compared 85 100 m long stretches of road where at least one road-kill was recorded with 104 stretches without any road-kill in a dry agricultural landscape in central Spain. We used regression analysis to investigate the relationship between road-kill occurrence and the features in the 67% of the cases. Road-kill stretches were characterised by greater numbers of rabbit burrows in the road verges and by higher traffic flow and speed (i.e. higher speed limit, lower proportion of heavy vehicles, wider road and lower proportion of unbroken central lines). Road-kill stretches also had more metres built over bridges and lower densities of people. We validated our best model with a dataset (the 33% of the cases) not included in its development, which correctly classified 82% of road-kill stretches and 89% of non-road kill stretches. Our results highlight the need for taking into account food resource distribution when studying causes of animal road-kills.


Carnivore conservation Mustela putorius Oryctolagus cuniculus Resources distribution Road verge Traffic Unbroken line 



Akaike information criterion


Corrected Akaike information criterion


The Spanish national geographic institute


Principal component


Principal component analysis


Universal transverse mercator coordinate system



We are very grateful to I. Cardiel, R. Jiménez, P.M. García, D. Martínez, O. Frías, J.A. Calvo, J.A. Lemus for their help in the field. We thank F. Valera, R. Václav, E. Virgós, J. Moya-Laraño, G. Hernández-Milián, J. Birks, D.P. Sleeman and an anonymous referee for their helpful suggestions. J. Moya-Laraño, Mark T. Bulling and B. Nicholls checked the English. Traffic data were provided by M. Vidal (Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha), A. J. Cervantes and J. Cobas (Diputación de Toledo) and A. Oliver (TELVENT). The Dirección General del Medio Natural of Toledo Province (Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha) partially supported our research by means of TO-01-03 and TO-01-04.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología Funcional y EvolutivaEstación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, CSICAlmeriaSpain
  2. 2.Grupo Ornitológico Alcedo, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de Alcalá de HenaresAlcala de HenaresSpain

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