The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

July 5, 2007

North American Road Kill


That means millions of people are hopping into their cars, trucks, monster motor homes or what have you and heading out on the highway.

And THAT means millions of animals are getting mowed over and killed on those same highways.

There's road rage, when people have been known to kill people. This is road kill of a different sort and it happens on a far more frequent basis.

Having just returned from a 2,000-km trip that took me through North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, I've never seen it so bad.

It was mostly deer -- fawns, usually -- left splattered on the road. Or racoons or skunks or rabbits.

There were a few coyotes, from what I could make of the carcasses as I sped past them at 120 kph (75 mph), and countless smaller creatures.

I know for a fact I creamed a garter snake and several of those quizzical little suicidal ground squirrels, the long thin ones.

They're very fast, those squirrels. They could easily make it across but they stop, right in the middle of the road, to see if it's still safe.

It's a fatal mistake, usually. By the time they start running again, they get smacked.

In my case, I saw one do just that. He ran under my car to his apparent death but I looked through my rear view mirror and saw that my tires missed him.

He survived and ran back to the side from which he came.

I had a lot of time and distance to see this carnage and to contemplate different aspects of it, from the obvious to the mundane.

What if the roles were reversed and animals were invading our cities and towns and killing us as we crossed their paths?

We'd call out the authorities and shoot them all.

In fact, that's exactly what happens now with "problem" alligators in Florida, cougars in the Rockies, wolves on sheep farmers' ranches.

But there's no similar protection for animals in their habitats when they try to cross our superhighways through their natural environment.

Usually signs are posted to indicate deer or mountain sheep are nearby, but that's not going to stop the animals from crossing.

So they get smucked. And they end up on the side of the road, sometimes for quite a long time, attracting crows and other scavengers.

Until the road crews come along to shovel them off the pavement.

Another common group of roadkill victims are birds. They're attracted to the pavement and to gravel shoulders, I assume, for reasons of survival.

It's on those flat, open surfaces they can more easily find the insects they feed on or to scavenge other animals killed by vehicles.

But they pay a price -- their own safety. Every time a car whizzes by, they fly away, only to turn right back again for more easy food on the road or shoulder.

Smack! They gets it.

Now to REALLY take this mind-numbing diatribe to its farthest extreme, what about all the insects we kill as we zoom down the expressway to our destination?

I'm guessing that my car alone, in about 22 hours or so, killed thousands of insects.

Multiply that by how many vehicles were travelling the roads in that time across the continent. Your windshield is a weapon, I tell ya.


  1. But what else would those Hicks in Hicksville eat?

    Your windshield looks marginally cleaner than your fridge x

  2. Cherrypie:

    Ha! Where IS Hicksville, exactly?

    I purposely left my windshield dirty to illustrate the post!

    And that's a low blow about my fridge, girl...maybe I need to do an updated one on that or my clothes closet.

    Nice to see you back...

  3. Venison is very tasty - you should try scraping some off the road taking it home and roasting it - yum!

    You can't really be feeling sorry for flies can you? The only good fly is a dead one - get out there WW and drive round a bit more!

  4. Ziggi:

    I've never tried venison, but I will on your recommendation.

    I just hope the flies, those dang things, or other vile creatures haven't laid their eggs in the flesh.

    I DO feel sorry for the flies and butterflies and whatever other bugs have gone "splat" on my windshield.

    I thought witches had a certain affinity towards such creatures, but I guess not...

  5. I dodge butterflies when I drive. Color me crazy.

  6. A 2000 km trip, wow, I've only seen the inside of my house the last weeks ;-) Traffic victims : in Flanders (size of a handkerchief) the nature we have is often fenced in, with "wildlife tunnels" for the animals to cross big roads underneath. I don't see a solution for Canada :-) But you're correct : an animal under the wheels is very terrible. We only had it once ourselves, but I'll never forget the sound of living meat smashing against the car.

  7. WE Aussies tried to create some underpasses to allow animals t cross without impeding traffic, there has been some success with the smaller marsupials.

    Aus animals are beginging to evolve deterents to being hit by cars....

    Roos still get wiped out regularly but they make an awful mess if you hit them not only to the roo but the car. Wombats have a heap of bone in their butts, generaly if you hit one you will do more damage to the car than the wombat.

  8. Laurie:

    Given the highway motorists I observed in Montana, I'm not surprised...

    Maybe they were all trying to avoid butterflies when they cut me off at 75 mph!

    Just kidding...


    This is where Europe seems to be so much more conscientous than us North Americans, more advanced.

    Seems our attitude here is the slaughter of wildlife is unfortunate, but it's a tolerable price to pay for our travels.

    And that actually doing anything about it would be too costly and just not worth the effort.


    It sounds like Roos in Oz are the equivalent of our deer here, an animal numerous in quantity and the most likely to be scrunched.

    Again, it appears as though your government is at least trying something with those tunnels.

    I know of nothing being tried in North America to do anything at all about this.

  9. I'd guess that most of our call-outs when we were in wildlife rescue were traffic-related.
    Aidan is right about some tunnels being tried, but they are very few and not wholly successful.
    I've seen some drivers aim for (and hit) snakes.Sick!
    Thanks for giving people a graphic and bloody heads-up.

  10. Dinahmow:

    I'm sure the Canada and U.S. governments would say that building infrastructure to try to save animals from becoming roadkill would be too cost-prohibitive, especially given an unproven track record of success.

    I didn't write the post to criticize the current system, because I don't have enough info.

    I do think it's a real shame, though.

  11. Oh, MAN!!!! That car of yours is going to be a bear to wash. And don't even attempt this chore without some sort of bug 'n' tar remover. About a can and half should do the job.

    Just don't get the pop-up wipes. Not only do they smell rank, but they don't work.

  12. back again...the hardest part about animal "cross walks" is getting wild critters to use them!We adapted to motor cars in a few years;animals are still aeons behind on this evolutionary twig.

  13. Ms. Val:

    Thanks for the cleaning tips. Hope you're surviving the 112F temps there...


    Yeah, that's the problem with animals...they can't read and don't readily use crosswalks, they go where they want to go.

  14. MMMM lovely post..I was trying to eat breakfast.
    I feel sorry for all of the other animals on the planet. We evolved into the ultimate destructive force..I wonder if anyone has ever tried to calculate how many animals we humans kill on any given day?

    On the other hand some animals species would have been long gone if it wasn't for humans protecting them from other humans.
    The weirdest thing is that a lot of us Westerners are far more motivated/interested/inclined to preserve endangered animals that saving those faceless millions of starving people on the other side of the world who just never seem to get it together. Animals are innocent of reasoning so we feel sorry for them while those humans should know better. That is weird.

    "WASPs love animals, can't stand people" Gord Gecko, Wall Street.

    I almost hit a full grown Black Bear last week and that would have been BAD for all of us.

    Love your new flattering avatar (wthiuwt?) sheesh you really went to town with the whole road kill theme! You look like you are staring into the grill of a runaway Semi a lip reader I can see the "ffffuuuu" sound emerging...

  15. Homo Escape From Here:

    What, you were eating an Egg McMuffin while tapping on your keyboard?

    I wonder if there is some "study" done on how many animals humans kill each day on the planet, either on the road, by hunting/fishing, etc.

    It would be mind-boggling.

    The point of saving animals while allowing other humans to starve to death is legitimate and worth debating.

    I'd call my new avatar, which of course I will eventually change, flattening rather than flattering.

    It just seemed perfect for the time and place I'm in. I even adjusted my accompanying written profile to complement it.

    If I had been staring into the grill of a runaway semi, I would have just stepped aside at that moment and let it destroy my car.

    But that car did make it through the trip, only a bit worse for wear...


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