Most kids have pretty good (if sometimes unrealistic) ideas of what they want to be when they grow up. A dinosaur. A superhero. A princess. My childhood dream? I wanted to be the person who picked up stuffed animals along the side of the road.
It’s the earliest memory I have of my parents asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. They were trying to explain what a job or a career was, and that was the first idea that popped into my head.
Did I know that roadkill animals weren’t stuffed animals like those in my Petnet? I think so, because I was imagining the latter — not that smudge on the side of the road.
Still, tagging along with the Idaho Transportation Department technician crew for our “Somebody’s got to do it” package was sort of like a dream come true.
As I drove through areas of road construction to the Bliss maintenance shed, I counted furry casualties along the road to gauge what kind of day it would be. It was raining, and we’d just missed the full moon the week before, but the seven or so dead rabbits, cats and unknowns seemed like a good omen (if you’re trying to find roadkill to scoop).
It was only later that I discovered what happens to most of our furry friends: Their bodies are left on the road to let magpies, vehicles and nature take their course. The ITD crew typically worries only about carcasses that pose a safety risk for drivers: deer, elk, coyotes — and maybe the occasional bloated raccoon.
And along with roadside debris, they have, every so often, picked up exceptionally large stuffed animals, too.
Thankfully, I didn’t smell the roadkill carcasses we found during my October excursion, but I realized that it’s a job not everyone could stomach. And it’s sad, too, when you consider the waste of animal life that occurs on the highways each year.
I suppose removing the larger carcasses, and burying them when necessary, better honors the animal’s life than letting cars grind it into the asphalt. One ITD crew member said some drivers intentionally hit roadkill carcasses, putting themselves and others at risk.
There’s one way you can help prevent wildlife deaths on the highway. Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s website has a section for making a Roadkill/Wildlife Salvage Report. Using its online form, you can identify the animal’s species (or your best guess), upload photos and include any other descriptions of the animal or its behavior. You can also pinpoint its location on a map.
Idaho Fish and Game and ITD use the reports to help make highways safer. Plus, the form will generate the required CE-51 Wildlife Salvage permit if you’re looking to fill up your freezer. You can find it at: https://idfg.idaho.gov/species/roadkill.