I just saw this claim on BBC news, and found it hard to believe. Annually 7,300+ car vs moose accidents in a country that is 173,000 Square Miles, that is like one collision with a moose (and probably close to one dead moose) in every 23 Square Miles (60 Square KM). It just seems very unrealistic.

About 20 times a day, a driver somewhere in Sweden crashes a car into a moose. The giant deer are usually injured or killed, the cars often destroyed, and the drivers frequently hurt. Source

Do cars really hit 20 moose per day in Sweden?

If so what happens to the the moose who are killed?

How many live moose are there in Sweden to support these kind of losses?

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    I suspect (without primary sources to confirm) that there's some confusion in the journalists' analysis. Car vs. moose accidents could include swerving to avoid one and crashing (I've read in the past that this is an issue). Then most moose hit are "injured or killed". We don't know the severity distribution of the injuries. No source is given for the 20/day claim in the article.
    – Chris H
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:46
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    On the other hand Wikipedia reports a (summer) population of 3-400 000 (so 2 per square mile on average), and up to 100 000 shot per year. The roadkill figure in the question is rounding error in that context (especially as my previous comment about usually injured or killed still applies).
    – Chris H
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:51
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    Also, keep in mind this is the number of reported accidents. In Sweden, one is compelled by law to report any wildlife car accidents ( source: bit.ly/2uQvBen )(actually, not any, there's a list of a species but a rather broad one). Which means that most accidents are reported. So don't try to compare with other countries with different laws/cultures because the reported-to-accident ratio is probably different. Aug 1, 2017 at 8:23
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    Why was the BBC calling them moose? They're called elk outside of north America. For those researching; could the difference in name be causing problems?
    – Niall
    Aug 3, 2017 at 18:05
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    @Niall the quote is copy and paste from news site, and a link is included. I was reading en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose and noticed the naming issues, maybe BBC knows I am reading in North America and translated the article for me. Aug 3, 2017 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


Moose–Vehicle Collisions

From Fatal Car to Moose Collisions:

In Sweden, the number of moose vehicle collisions (MVCs) were 5874 in 2016 (Nationella Viltolycksrådet 2015). During the last 10 years in average 5 [human] fatalities occur annually due to MVCs in Sweden.

To put this in proportion, see Sweden Sverige (emphasis added):

There are approximately 350,000 moose (Alces alces) in Sweden.

  • If a moose feels cornered, it sometimes lowers its head and rushes towards people.
  • Every year there are approximately 6,000 road accidents involving moose.
  • Each year about 100,000 moose are killed during hunting season in Sweden.
  • If you just want to watch moose, not hunt them, you can go on a "moose safari"

The actual numbers of reported collisions vary from year to year and source to source. According to research done at The Sivis Lab, which focuses on sustainability and conservation,

In Sweden, moose are a national symbol, a major game species, and a hazard for car travel, with some 4,500 accidents per year. [year not given] (emphasis added)

Only 285 people were killed in road fatalities from all causes in 2012, according to The Local SE. The only data I have been able to find so far on moose mortality from MVCs dates from 1980 (from The toll of the automobile: Wildlife and roads in Sweden by Andreas Seiler:

For example, approximately 92% of all moose and 98% of all roe deer involved in police-reported vehicle collisions in Sweden ultimately died as a consequence of an accident (Almkvist et al. 1980).

Swedish traffic became much more dangerous for moose in the 1970s: a report from 1986 Collisions with Passenger Cars and Moose, Sweden stated:

In Sweden, the number of reported road accidents involving large wildlife and motor vehicles has increased five-fold during the 1970s and now constitute about one third of the accidents on the state road net (i.e., excluding rural roads). It can be calculated that about one driver out of 10 with an annual driving distance over 20,000 km will collide with a moose once during his lifetime.

But this trend may be reversed. According to Wired new technology debuted in 2017 "to help save the Swedes meatballs":

[Volvo's] new Large Animal Detection system can spot and identify outsized carbon-based hazards and stop the car before colliding with moose.....

Sustainability of the Moose Population

Source: Hunting for Sustainability: A Summary of Research Findings from Sweden. This source summarizes the management of the moose population in in Sweden and is part of a larger project funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Research Programme. Hunting appears to be conscientiously regulated in Sweden with due regard for the management of game populations. However, I am not knowledgeable enough to critique this report. Of the ungulate populations in Europe (not just Sweden) the report says:

Some countries, where the total ungulate population has increased to its highest level since the Ice Age have raised a general concern for negative ecosystem impacts due to overgrazing.

Contribution of Moose to the Swedes' Diet

The majority of moose hunted are hunted for food. Hunting for Sustainability says:

The support for hunting among the public in Sweden is strong. There is thus a wide acceptance for hunting, in terms of wildlife management but also as a way of providing food. The support for ‘pure‘ recreational hunting is however lower.

This is only a qualitative comparison, but let's assume that all hunted moose wind up contributing to the diet of the Swedes.

One can expect to get 312 pounds of meat from a moose. Source: Pourvoiries du Québec. That is 31.2 million pounds of moose meat per year from hunting, for 9.9 million Swedes, or 3 pounds per Swede or 12 Moose-Quarter-Pounders per year per Swede.

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    And, for completeness, 5874 collisions per year is 16 per day, which is "about 20". (Though given the scale of the numbers, I'd personally call it "about 15"). Aug 1, 2017 at 9:50
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    Accidents increased five-fold in the 1970s? Looks like driving on the right really is dangerous ;-) Aug 2, 2017 at 15:19
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    @TobySpeight Late comment but... what really happened was that the moose popluation was growing exponentially after their natural predators were made all but extinct... the statistics were showing a textbook J-curve. It was so bad that the annual moose hunt had to step up from 30 000 moose per year to a peak of 180 000 felled animals in 1979.
    – MichaelK
    Mar 8 at 8:18

This comes from more of a personal experience side of things, rather than a statistics point of view. See the other answers if you are looking for the actual numbers.

Being a Swede, and telling just from the number of people I know have hit moose with a car, that figure might very well be correct.

Moose are very common in Sweden (seeing as the country is mostly forest), and spotting one is not very hard. If you're in a forested place a few (metric) miles away from the nearest densely populated area, getting to see several moose within the span of half an hour is not uncommon.

The larger motorways have fencing to prevent wildlife accidents (and clear warnings where the fencing has gaps), so from my experience, most accidents happen on smaller roads. As to why hitting them is so common, it's probably because the driver has little control over if they hit the moose or not. By the time you see the moose, it's probably too late. Whether you actually hit is more dependent on how the moose reacts. Telling from hunting stories that I've heard, moose have quite a good sense of hearing, so I'd assume the moose would be aware of passing cars. As to why they still decide to run across the road, I'm not really sure. Maybe it's to try and get away from the noise, but that is just speculation.

What happens when you actually hit the moose is generally that only the moose gets injured. From what I've heard, nearly in all cases, the moose flies over the roof of the car, not causing any major damage to the driver nor the car. Injuries most often come from the fact that the moose goes through the windshield, crushing the driver. My grandfather always told me to lean down in the car if I saw a moose. Once you've hit a moose, you're required to report it to the police, and tell the location of where it happened. What the police do with the moose, I don't know. I'd assume this is where they get such accurate statistics from.

The moose population is very large; I'd guess that road accidents have barely any impact on the overall moose population. I'd estimate that tens of times more moose are killed during hunting, compared to road accidents.

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    Why was this answer downvoted? Getting a thoughtful and detailed answer from a Swede who knows something about moose-vehicle collisions is a great addition, and complements the statistics based answer.
    – ab2
    Aug 3, 2017 at 2:44
  • @ab2 I wonder about the downvote too. It might be because the question was looking for statistics and this didn't quote any, but I have no real idea. With all due respect to any statistically based answers, the admitted "speculation" in this answer seems more useful. It also adds information to help us understand more of what actually happens in some cases.That's just my reaction to the answer though. Hearing from the downvoter would be useful. Aug 4, 2017 at 1:23

To address the follow-up, Sweden has four species of large carnivore: wolf, wolverine, brown bear and lynx. The first three are all willing to scavenge, as are some birds, and of course humans (plenty of people eat fresh roadkill). In other countries large roadkill is used as food for bears and zoo animals, though I can't find a solid source for Sweden. Obviously much of it on well-travelled roads near urban areas will end up being disposed of, presumably in landfill.

Interesting reading from an international perspective with an emphasis on Sweden (a doctoral thesis).

  • +1 There is an enormous literature on road-kill on Google. Far too much to summarize. Road-kill data, road-kill cookbooks, new automobile technology to avoid large animals (reported in a vegan newsletter), and, my favorite so far Why You Should be Eating Roadkill
    – ab2
    Jul 31, 2017 at 19:36

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