Just take a short drive up or down Rt. 119 or your nearest major thoroughfare and you will see the evidence scattered about in messy and gruesome fashion. It seems that almost every day on your commute to and from that there is a new item on the menu at the road kill café.
Everything thing from opossum to coyote can be seen lying on the roadside waiting to either be removed by the kind folks at the highways department, or a whole host of Mother Nature’s clean-up crew of scavengers.
It seems that in recent days, the crows, buzzards and vultures have been getting a feast. Tis’ the season, and it will probably get worse before it gets better, so be on the look-out.
As summer starts to give way to fall, all manner of wild beasts start to change, everything from their fur color to their preferred food source. These changes can spell trouble when they get the animals moving.
It is this time of year as the mast crops of the mountains start to ripen and fall from the trees, the spring, and this year summer, rains start to become fewer and further between, and as hunting and mating seasons approach, it gets animals on their feet and into harms-way.
All these factors contribute to the rise in the number and different types of animals we see laying along the road side that have met an unfortunate end. Whether it was looking for water, or greener pastures, it seems that there is a menagerie showing up meeting their untimely end.
It is sad to see any of the state’s wild things getting splattered on the road, but as the size of the animal increases so does the danger and damage those impacts do. Each year there are almost 200 fatalities nationwide due to deer-car collisions.
Even more striking is the fact that West Virginia leads the nation in the likelihood that you might have one of those collisions. That is scary considering the number of miles of back roads there are in the state and the number of deer you see along the interstates every time you take a trip.
If you happen to run over an unsuspecting raccoon, or even a skunk, you might have a stinky mess to clean off your car, but have a run in with a traveling whitetail on one of those roads, and you are looking at some major repair work at the very least.
In an effort to protect ourselves and the wildlife, not to mention our automobiles, there are a few things you can keep in mind to help avoid those awful collisions.
Whenever driving, we need to stay alert and pay attention to not what is just in the road ahead of us, but be sure to scan the sides for wayward animals that might dart out into the line of traffic. Pay special attention during early morning and late evenings when most critters are more active.
If you happen to see one of the state’s furrier residents near the side of the road, be sure to slow down. If at all possible avoid slamming on the breaks or swerving off the road because either of these may cause you to lose control of the vehicle and put you in even greater danger or cause more damage.
Be especially cautious in the upcoming months, as the weather gets cooler, and the whitetail mating season approaches, there will be more deer roaming and a better chance for one stepping right out in front of oncoming traffic.
While these collisions are terrible no matter how they happen, sometimes good things can come from bad situations. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in, or witness, one of the tragic altercations between car and beast, there is one bright spot.
It is legal to salvage the meat from car-wildlife collisions in the state. All you have to do is report the collision to WDNR law enforcement, 911, or WV State Police within 12 hours of the accident and leave them the appropriate contact information so an officer can investigate the collision and issue a game tag if appropriate.
It may be a small consolation if your car is ruined, but at least you can get some tasty venison for the freezer to help ease the pain, or help out a neighbor in need. At least the meat hopefully won’t just go to waste littering our beautiful roadsides.
So every time you get behind the wheel, be sure to keep an eye out for the furry friends that are roaming the hills and hollows because they don’t pay attention to road signs, or the roads themselves for that matter. Just watch out, the animals are on the move.
— Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor Columnist for Civitas Media. He can be reached at [email protected]