Roadkill: Squashing Overpopulation

Meredith White

Mirador uncovers the chain of events leading to our furry friends’ demise on pavement.

I’ve seen blood, guts, and gore. I’ve seen Moraga Way take on the semblance of a Civil War battlefield. I’ve seen necks turn to rubber as they crane to get one last look at the carnage that lies at the feet of mankind and its nifty automobile. I’ve seen drivers exceed the speed limit, despite the warnings of “Deer Xing.” But most of all, I’ve seen some pretty stupid animals.

Some ecologists believe road kill is swiftly becoming the leading cause in population busts of native species. “Road ecology,” as the new field is called, prides itself on its devotion to wildlife protection services. Such services include a California Road Kill Observation System, which serves the dual function of spreading awareness of the bloodbaths leaked on the California streets, and providing a blog site for sick-minded folk.

Ronald Ringen has reported a total of 1,473 road kill observations, complete with pictorial representation in the Road Kill Photo Gallery. Way to go Ron, keep on blogging!

Aside from the California Road Kill Observation System’s questionable motives and uses, the statistics stand as testament to the slaughterhouses we have made of our streets.

Raccoons rank number one in the death tally, chalking up a reported 814 California deaths in one month, not including all the unreported mishaps. This may seem like a devastating number to those furry little critter’s happy community of garbagemongers, but let’s look at the numbers.

In suburban communities, raccoons average 69 per square kilometer. Orinda totals an area of about 32 square kilometers. So we’re talking on average 2,200 coons roaming the Orinda hills. With a gestation period of about two months, litters reaching up to six “kits,” and a hearty supply of sustenance from the trashcans and dog food bowls of suburban families, raccoons seem to have safely evaded the threat of endangerment with room to spare.

Without road kill knocking off about 6% of that growing population, raccoons could outnumber Orindians in half a decade. At that point we’d need to declare year-round open hunting season and mandate the sporting of coon caps for all Orinda residents. YIKES!

Although flattening an innocent critter may be an unnerving, discomforting experience, don’t leap out of the car in a frantic act of heroism and attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (my aunt successfully resurrected her cat this way when it was compressed by a lazy boy chair for two hours. Weedle the cat was also not rabid.) If it’s any consolation to allay the pain of destroying a life, Darwin probably wanted it that way.

Population Control

1. Senior Will St. Lezin- “It was at night. I was driving up St. Stephen’s going to someone’s house, going about 40 mph. I had my lights on, saw something run in front of my car…and then the inevitable happened. There was a lot of noise and a little bump. It was a clean kill so it didn’t suffer. I looked back and kept going my merry way. I am comforted to know that he’s in raccoon heaven.”

2. Senior Mackenzie Martin- “I was driving in my cute, harmless, Mini Cooper. A squirrel with some sort of death wish dashed in front of my wheel. It was a terrible jolt. I drove by it later to pay my respects.”

Roadkill Aftermath Protocol:

So, Mackenzie, Will and all the other roadkillers out there, Mirador presents several appropriate courses of action for future reference.

1. The Laissez-Faire Approach: Keep driving. Don’t look back. Better yet, accelerate to lengthen your distance from the scene of the crime as fast as possible. Appear cool and collected when you step out of the car and tell everyone the blood on your tire is from a your grandmother’s bout with tuberculosis.

2. The Humanitarian: Put your emergency flashers on and pull over. Using some sort of shovel that is conveniently stored in the trunk of your hybrid, scoop up your kill and bring it to the side of the road. Bury and know the decaying corpse will nourish Mother Earth. Peace and love, yo.

3. The Rubber-Necker: Take your eyes off the road; you were probably never watching in the first place. Gawk and stare at your victim and slow traffic flow as much as possible. Turn a complete 180 degrees in your seat and watch fellow drivers react to the horror.