It is in the news that police are investigating an incident where someone ran over three ducklings as they were crossing the road, with the Wildlife and Countryside Act cited. What is the law concerning how one should behave if a wild animal is in the road you are driving on?

When I was learning to drive (many years ago, in an area that frequently has wild animals in the road) I learnt that if a human is in the road you do whatever you can to avoid them, and if that causes a crash then so be it, people in cars are better protected than pedestrians. If a (non-human) animal is in the road you continue on until you have ascertained that it is safe to take avoiding action, as a crash is likely to hurt humans and they are infinity more important than wild animals. This is the behaviour I have adopted, and would like to know if it is legal.

This occured in the UK, and that is where I am most interested in answers about. Other jurisdictions could be interesting.

  • Ducklings are tiny. Even if some people stop how is a random person supposed to know why the people next to the road stopped there cars? You may simply not see them before you ride them over.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


According to the article, the driver ran over the ducklings intentionally, when other drivers had already stopped. From the article: "Police urged animal lovers not to take "matters in your own hands" following the incident.". So the main consequences might not be legal consequences but non-legal consequences.

Before you run into animals on the road, you make sure that you stay within the speed limit, that you have unobstructed view, and that you keep your eyes on the road. If there's a dog in the road, there could have been a young child as well. So having a situation where you can't stop safely is very bad.

There are lots of people with expensive animals. A dog could easily be £2,000 and there are Frenchies that cost £30,000. Something to consider, so make sure your third party liability insurance is fine. And remember there might be consequences outside the law.

  • If you run over a 800 kg antelope the consequence could be a violent death.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 9:13
  • If a non-human animal is in the road you continue on until you have ascertained that it is safe to take avoiding action

Yes, as well as considering an emergency stop. Otherwise, it may be (depending on the particular circumstances) considered to be dangerous or careless driving.

Also, for the cited example, section (1)(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 seems the most relevant, assuming the intent to kill the ducklings is proven:

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally

(a) kills, injures or takes any wild bird;


shall be guilty of an offence.

  • What is the law concerning running over wild animals?

Whether the driver is legally required to report hitting an animal depends if the animal falls within the scope of section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988:

(1) This section applies in a case where, owing to the presence of a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, an accident occurs by which—


(b) damage is caused—


  • (ii) to an animal other than an animal in or on that mechanically propelled vehicle or a trailer drawn by that mechanically propelled vehicle [...]


(2) The driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle must stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address and also the name and address of the owner and the identification marks of the vehicle.

(3) If for any reason the driver of the mechanically propelled vehicle does not give his name and address under subsection (2) above, he must report the accident.

(4) A person who fails to comply with subsection (2) or (3) above is guilty of an offence.


(6) To comply with a duty under this section to report an accident [...] the driver—

(a) must do so at a police station or to a constable, and

(b) must do so as soon as is reasonably practicable and, in any case, within twenty-four hours of the occurrence of the accident.


(8) In this section “animal” means horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

[non-relevant details omitted]

Note that most (if not all) of these are probably not wild animals, but are domesticated / owned by someone. There is no legal requirement report any other animals, but related government guidenance says:

You can report any dead animals you find on the road to the local council.

This includes wild animals like badgers and foxes, as well as domestic pets such as cats and dogs.

  • 2
    I guess the question is whether deciding not to perform an emergency stop until one has checked the rear view mirror is intentional killing. I guess it would be with a human in the road.
    – User65535
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 11:15

Driving over an animal is not prohibited, but not reporting it is.

Accidents with wild animals near forests are common, particularly in spring and fall. If an animal may have been wounded, it is the duty of the driver to report this to the chase inspector or the police. Otherwise, he may be sued for failure to report (same as leaving an accident site with a human) or for torturing an animal.

But this is only the criminal law part. Additionally, one might need to pay the value of the animal to the hunting association or the owner.

Unfortunately, all the relevant articles I find are about big animals (deer, dogs, etc.). I can't seem to find what happens when driving over a duck, let alone on purpose.


In South Africa you can own game like you can own a dog. This is a concept wholly foreign to people in the US. There the state owns all the indiginous game and a hunting licence is nothing more than the government giving you permission to hunt there game.

Oddly enough in the US you can own non-indiginous game as they are considered exotic cattle.

On a farm the migrating antelope would be yours to hunt but you would still be expected not to descimate a whole herd.

The general rules of hunting would still apply. You would never hunt pregnant ewes and you would always hunt the season when the antelope dont produce offspring ie winter is hunting season.

If on the other hand your farm is next to a game farm then you would know the game belongs to someone and you will not hunt it.

Any hunting of game that is not wild and does not belong to you is considered poaching. Considered one of the worst offences.

Oscar Pistorius got 16 years for.killing his girlfriend and the vietnamese guy who poached rhinos got a life sentence just to put the bat-crap-crazy justice system of my beloved banana republic in perspective.

We dont really have water fowl but you would be unlikely to get into trouble if you ran over a partridge or a guinea fowl. If they wonder on to your farm you own them basically.


Don’t have collisions

The law is very simple: you are at fault if you run into things. Human, duck, tree or fence.

  • 1
    According to all I read, this was actually done intentional.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 10:59
  • While this is certainly true, it doesn't mean that one risks a penalty when doing so.
    – PMF
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 11:31
  • 2
    this is patently not true.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 13:15

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