Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roadkill: Better Avoided than Regretted

Watch out for the animals!

I've heard many roadkill jokes, but to me, it's not a very funny topic. I feel terrible when I hit something, so I really try to let the little animals and birds get out of the way of my car.

Today, I am sad that I hit a cardinal. I suppose he took flight as best he could when the car startled him. He came up from the side of the road right into the front wheel of my car.

I've often wondered if people were shocked that motorized vehicles killed so many more wild animals than horse-drawn vehicles did. Or was the increase in roadkill so gradual over the years that nobody really noticed how bad it was getting?

Birds on the highway

Birds fly like airplanes. When they take off, they have to fly forward. Most species of birds can't lift themselves straight up from the ground like a helicopter. This means that when birds on the highway try to get out of the way, they may fly straight at you! I know this, and I slow down for birds, but I didn't see that cardinal today until he flew out of the ditch.

A group of vultures gathered around roadkill on the highway can be dangerous. Some of them will probably take off in your direction. When their bellies are full, they have a hard time going airborne and gaining altitude. I have heard that it's very disgusting to have a vulture disgorge in your car after it comes through your windshield.

Wild turkeys also have a hard time rising up from the ground and flying. Last year, a wild turkey broke out a school bus window in Connecticut.

Helping turtles cross the road

Turtle in Missouri that Isaac helpedIsaac has always had an affectionate concern for turtles. If he sees one crossing the road, he likes to move it to the side of the road in the direction that it was headed. (By the way, if you ever pick up a turtle and he pees, be sure to put him down in an area where he can replenish his liquid within a short time.)

One day we were driving along one of our rural blacktops, and we saw a turtle about halfway across the road. I stopped, and Isaac got out to move him. He bent over to pick up the turtle, and the turtle went into attack mode! He stood up tall on all four legs and lunged at Isaac with his mouth open (as well as a turtle can lunge, that is.)

Clearly, the turtle wouldn't be picked up, so Isaac thought he could drag the turtle off the road if he would snap on a stick. The turtle wasn't fooled by a stick; he was determined to use his snap power on Isaac. So we abandoned the rescue and motored away. If we hadn't stopped, the turtle probably could have walked across the road in less time than it took him to scare off Isaac!

Drive defensively to avoid collisions with wildlife.

Many wild animals are active at dawn and dusk, because they're out looking for food and water. Unfortunately, it's hard to see them on the roads in the dim light between full night and full day. All you can do is slow down and be alert.

When you're driving at night and you see eyes reflecting in your headlights, there's a good chance that a freaked-out, light-dazed animal will run into the path of your vehicle. If you're alert to that possibility, maybe you can avoid hitting it.

And please, watch out for the possums. I think they must be the most-often-killed animal along western Kentucky's roadways. They have a hard time thinking what to do when they're frightened. In fact, panic can make their brains short out, so have some patience and a little extra care for them.

Collisions with Deer

Hey, try to avoid hitting a deer (or a moose or an elk or a bear.) It will wreck your car, and injure or kill the animal, and you could be injured or killed too!

The worst time for deer on the roads is coming up soon. Their breeding season in Kentucky is October through January. They are naturally silly from their hormones during this time, and also, their routines and habits are disrupted by hunters.

Be especially wary when driving through areas where the road is lined by woods. If you see one deer, there are probably others nearby. They may decide to follow the one you saw. They are particularly active at dawn and dusk, but you can see them anytime.

Deer behave erratically when they're befuddled by bright headlights. They might start across the road and then change directions and run back. It's better to stop (if possible) than to try to dodge them.

One last story, and I'm done with this topic. Our Mennonite neighbor has several sons -- young, single guys who are old enough to go places and stay out late. One of the boys was coming home on his bicycle late at night. A deer jumped out of the ditch directly in front of him and he couldn't avoid it. He ran right into it and both he and the deer fell down. The deer got up and ran away, and fortunately our neighbor boy wasn't hurt other than scrapes and bruises. He recuperated a little, and then he got back on his bike and pedaled home.

There's some kind of a lesson to that story, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's just that you never know what will happen next!

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Mark said...

Once a few years ago at Great Basin National Park a motorcyclist hit a deer at dusk. She had to be airlifted across Utah to Salt Lake City with serious internal injuries. It made a believer out of me. We see deer killed by cars quite frequently near our home. We live near Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Berry has a 2600-acre campus that for many years was a game preserve with no hunting. The deer sometimes graze in herds right alongside the cattle. And they cross the surrounding roads. I always drive more slowly at night because of this, but for some reason our neighbors can't figure it out.

Genevieve said...

Mark, I've typed out a reply to you three times today, but I can't ever get it to post! Maybe this time it will work.

I agree. For their own safety, people should have enough common sense to slow down in the areas where there's a history of deer killed by cars, Common sense is not nearly as common as it ought to be, though!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
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