During my daily and sometimes nightly travels along rural highways and byways, I’ve encountered an unfortunate amount of roadkill lately.
Possums, turtles, skunks and squirrels have not fared so well at the hands of motorists in their bid to make it across.
On one particular evening drive home, I hit a large raccoon. The impact caused the animal to become entangled with my car’s low bumper, sending it rumbling and rolling beneath my car.
My heart sank for the unfortunate furry critter. What a cruel ending.
What could have gone wrong, I asked myself? I usually blow my horn at darting squirrels and animals attempting to cross the road. And it works.
But raccoons respond differently. They seem to cross roads on their own terms. They expect the cars to yield — at least in my experiences with them.
Months before I ran over the raccoon, I encountered three raccoons crossing the same stretch of that rural highway in West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.
I slowed to a stop as “mama” raccoon, and I’m not kidding, stood on her hind legs and glared at me as if to say, “Do not move your car until I get my family across this road.”
I obliged, and let the trio continue their trek.
Days later, I passed several raccoon carcasses along that same stretch of road. I was saddened, but I also remembered how slowly the raccoons crossed the roadway. If a car is unable to stop in time, the outcome isn’t a nice one.
Of one thing I am certain: the perpetrator was not my children’s school bus driver, one of the most compassionate drivers I’ve even known. During one of his stops along a bus route, my children told me he pulled the bus over to rescue a turtle which had strayed out of the bayou and onto the highway.
Meanwhile, the raccoon I recently hit caused some damage to my minivan. The impact forced a small panel to dislodge from my bumper which caused part of it to drag the ground.
When my husband hit a skunk a few years ago, the impact didn’t damage his car, but it took us weeks to eliminate the smell.
With some 3.9 million miles of public roads running throughout the U.S., roadkill accounts for millions of animal deaths annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Slow-moving animals, including turtles, are especially at risk when crossing roads.
We as motorists also pay the price. More than 200 motorists each year are killed and thousands injured in animal-vehicle collisions, according to The Wildlife Society.
In the end, the animals pay the heaviest price. Roads and cars, while convenient, necessary and essential in the modern world, are often animals’ worst enemies.
Chante Warren Pryer is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.