Elks on jury duty to pass verdict on salt

Elks and reindeer at Skansen wildlife park in Stockholm have been called up on jury duty. The animals are to decide which is tastier: traditional road salt or a sweeter alternative.

In a bid to cut down on road traffic accidents involving wild animals, the Swedish National Roads Administration (Vägverket) wants to see which salt turns out to be least palatable to the animals at Skansen.

“We want to see if the animals are attracted to the new, sweeter road salt,” said project manager Frida Hedin.

A ten-animal jury, consisting of both elks – similar to North American moose – and reindeer, is to be given the opportunity to choose between two different types of salt.

The first salt is the one currently used on icy roads. But it is the second variety, which has been mixed with sugar, that the administration plans to introduce if it passes the salty challenge.

“We are always trying to reduce the amount of salt on the roads, mainly out of concern for the environment,” said administration spokesman Göran Gabrielsson.

A problem may arise however if the woodland creatures, which need salt to survive, develop a fondness for the sweetened mineral and take to the roads to lap it up. This is where the verdict of the animal jury comes into play.

“We are assembling the holders at the moment and are waiting for the salt blocks to be delivered. When they arrive, the animals can lick them until June.

“By weighing the blocks we will then be able to tell which taste they prefer,” said Frida Hedin.

Göran Gabrielsson does not anticipate that the animals will have a particular preference. But will the roads administration be forced to shelve its plans to introduce the sweeter variety of salt if it proves too popular with the animals?

“Well, if that’s the case then we’ll just have to sit down and have a think about it,” he said.