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Chain Reaction Makes More ROAD KILL

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As it often happens, the best intentioned logic – if not completely thought through – isn’t actually logical. I was talking to a friend, Bill O’Luanaigh, today who made me painfully aware of this fact with one critical example. Read on.

There is a lot of dead wildlife alongside the road. Is it bad timing? Bad luck? Or simply, the sad truth about our attempts to integrate automobiles and the natural world? All of the above certainly applies. BUT – and this is a big BUT – we HUGELY compound these problems when we throw apple cores, banana peels or other seemingly innocent edibles out of our car windows to biodegrade or to provide a snack for some lucky wildlife. Oops…lucky? Harldly. Think it through – I had to.

Wildlife attracted to food along roadsides or in parking lots (or in urban areas in general), are at greatly increased risk of becoming road kill (or at the very least, unhealthy, if the scraps are not animal-friendly). But keep doing the math. Vultures, birds, mice, and other scavengers are attracted to the road for a meal and likely to meet the same fate. Owls and hawks now see the mice and fly in for breakfast and….well, you get the picture. In fact, this same friend, on the Board of Directors of The Wildlife Center of Virginia, told me that currently, 80% of the owls in rehabilitation have been injured in car accidents. Wow.

So, please make and keep this New Year’s Resolution – don’t litter, period, even with food scraps. And, while we’re at it, let’s make sure our composting piles are not in an area that put wildlife at risk. My broader resolution is to always “think it through”, which leads me to other related and important considerations on this topic:

If you see an injured animal, stop if possible and please take some action to help (I keep my local wildlife rescue numbers in my cell phone). Believe me, some of the most seemingly unlikely rescues have happened simply because someone stopped. I once picked up a Beagle along the highway, drove 2 miles to the next exit and happen to see a truck driving through a plowed field nearby. The driver was looking for his lost dog – a Beagle.

If you see a dead animal, call your local authority to have it removed and help avoid the chain reaction of killing that is sure to follow. I keep that number in my phone also, so that I can give the location more accurately.

If you see a stray dog or a cat that appears to be lost, don’t assume it can make it home on it’s own – please stop to help. I keep leashes, a blanket for picking up an injured animal if necessary, and pet food in my car. The best food to keep with you is canned – it’s non-perishable, and will be more alluring to a hungry dog or cat.

For more rescue advice, visit this site at

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