Road Kill – Animals killed on our roads. Why it happens – What to do when it happens, and how we can help avoid it from happening.
So what is road kill? If you haven’t heard the term before and you’re hearing it now for the first time please read further. The first time I heard this term I said to myself “what is that?” After thinking about the term for a minute or so I realized it meant something killed on the road. Generally people use the term for animals killed on the road. Road Kill comes in all sizes shapes and species; from dogs and cats to squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, opossum, birds, raccoon and deer etc. Remember domesticated animals should never be outside alone unattended. Wild life make their homes in our forests. Any animal that finds a need to cross the road could get hit. Often times our forests are on both sides of the road where animals make their homes.
Why It Happens.
First we should address why wild animals do get onto our roads. Well more often than not they have a need to get to the other side. Often times they might be crossing to get to a water source like a stream, brook, or river. Sometimes they have made their homes on one portion of the forest and they need to get to the other side of the forest. In the winter time the asphalt is warmed by the winter sun and retains heat. Often times wild life especially nocturnal [animals that are awake at night] wild life come into the road to simply get warm; to warm their feet and body. Remember animals innocent and don’t always realize that our roads are dangerous. Some wildlife after losing family members might realize this after awhile but generally they don’t know they can be killed by motor vehicles.
After a busy week of traveling on the roads of Connecticut and coming across several animals that met their end, I’ve decided to write about Road Kill hoping that people will think about what I’m about to say.
As an animal lover it’s always very troubling to come across an animal that is injured, near death or dead. The lucky ones die instantly from their injuries inflicted by traveling vehicles. The not so lucky ones linger half alive waiting for help that most often never arrives. Most drivers never think to stop and see if they can help the animal they’ve hit. People are either to busy getting to where they are going; or they justify not stopping by blaming the animal that crossed in front of them. “Are you one of these people who have been heard cursing saying something like this “you deserve getting hit what were you doing in the road anyway.” Then there are people who just don’t know what to do even if they did stop. Have you ever wanted to stop and then thought to yourself; “who do I call, who’s going to pay for this surely not me.” “Where do I take this animal anyway?” First I should tell you that in Connecticut it is against the law not to stop for a dog if you’ve hit a dog. Dogs are considered mans best friend. If you are caught you will incur a fine.
What to do if it happens.
Well I have some good news for you humans that have hearts and want to stop to help an injured animal. If it is a domestic animal like a dog or cat, you need to make sure it is safe for you to approach an animal that is in shock. What is Shock? Shock is the body’s response to a change in blood flow and oxygen to the internal organs and tissues. It is always an emergency. If can result from a sudden loss of blood, a traumatic injury, heart failure, severe allergic reaction [anaphylactic shock], organ disease or an infection circulating through the body [septic shock]. There are three stages of shock, Early shock, Middle shock, End stage shock. If you are not trained in animal or human CPR or First Aide I suggest you might want to call the local police department who will contact the local Animal Control Officer who will come out for a dog. If the dog is approachable try and get it to the side of the road so that it doesn’t get hit again. Cats aren’t this lucky and are considered more often than not wild animals and you probably won’t get the police to come out for a cat. If the animal can’t move and is still alive you can take it to the nearest animal hospital which more often than not will treat the animal. The very least you can do for an injured animal is call the police department to notify them you’ve hit an animal, and tell them where the animal is. Give them the exact street address and location so the authorities can locate the animal if you aren’t going to stay and wait for them.
If you have found a wild animal on the road, and are one of us humans that don’t want to get involved you can stop and move the animal to the side of the road or onto a grassy area where no one will torment it or hit it again. Preferably use a cloth or paper towel or a pair of gloves if you carry them in your car to move the animal.
If by chance you might have empathy [feeling] for the injured animal who feels pain as you would, and most likely has children and family of its own waiting for it to return home; you can call information and get the telephone number for The Department of Environmental Protection in your state or your local veterinarian. If it is after hours the Department of Environmental Protection has a toll free 800 # that you can get from information. A live person usually gets on the telephone or you will hear a detailed recording about what to do if you have come across injured wildlife. It is against the law in the State of Connecticut to keep wildlife [wild animals]. The reason for this is because many well meaning Humans attempt to help wild life but have no real knowledge of what the animal needs, and the animal usually dies or lives a sad life in captivity away from its family members. Wild Life Rehabilitators who care for wild animals are trained by The State you live in and know how to help wildlife. Local Nature or WildlifeCenters often take injured wildlife and nurse them back to health. You can try calling your nearest NatureCenter for help.
How we can help avoid wild life from getting killed on our roads.
First and foremost know your animals. Nocturnal animals [awake at night] often forge for food and walk around at night. They are usually blinded by light [car or truck headlights]. If you were walking around in the dark and someone flashed a bright light in your eyes you would freeze for a moment unaware of what is happening. So if a opossum, skunk, raccoon or deer cross in front of you. FIRST: SLOW DOWN if you can. Generally when an animal does confront danger it usually goes back in the direction from which it came. So if the animal has crossed the road from your right side there is a good chance it might run back that way. Slow down and dim your lights so the animal can see and hopefully run out of the road. Lean on your horn if it doesn’t move. SECONDLY: DIM YOUR HEADLIGHTS AND LEAN ON YOUR HORN. This will generally alert the animal that there is danger and something is there. Don’t assume the animal can see your vehicle especially if it has been walking around in the dark and is suddenly confronted by your headlights. THIRD: GIVE THE ANIMAL A CHANCE TO GET OUT OF THE ROAD. Have some patience and let it waddle or move at it’s own pace not your pace.
I stop for all animals on the road if I’m not going to endanger my life in doing so. This means that if I can safely pull over to the side of the road and get out of my car to take a look and see if I can help out I do. I stop to see the animal is dead or alive. If the animal is dead I move it to the side of the road so there is a chance its family can view its body and say goodbye. If I find the animal alive depending on the type of animal I gingerly get them into my car and drive them to a veterinarian if it is a domestic animal. If it is a wild animal and I can get it safely into my car I’ll call a Wildlife Rehabilitator and ask for assistance. Most Wild Life Rehabilitators are trained to take care of a specific animal.
I hope this article has helped you understand how to help injured animals on our roads.