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I brake for road kill

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 26, 2002


You know it's spring when you can find baseball on television, Easter marketing everywhere, and an inordinate number of dead animals littering the asphalt. Last week, marking the vernal equinox, I pulled an injured opossum out of the road, as it was unable to help itself.

Noticing the two motorists in front of me swerve, it was clear some obstacle was impeding their commute, unlike them however I abandoned any pretense of getting to my destination on time, and stopped to help the struggling creature. Without immediate help, his nasty head injury would prove fatal.

As I waited in the street for a passing motorist to return with a box to transport the young opossum, a couple stepped out of their home to say Project Wildlife had been contacted. Arriving at a nearby Chevron station, I gladly left our young ward in the care of Alicia and Ken, Project Wildlife volunteers from La Costa. Doing the math I realize it took one careless driver to run down this small animal, and at least seven to save it from further harm.

As most people know, spring is breeding and birthing season,which means habitat and territories are in flux. As viable living space for wild animals continues to shrink, many animals must find their own niche, often in our neighborhoods, if they are to survive. Sadly this search for food and shelter requires opossums, skunks, raccoons, and other small mammals to cross the asphalt killing fields that are North County roadways.

Animals die, I get that. What bothers me, and others like me, is that in the rush that is their life, people are willing to leave dead and injured animals in the middle of the road. Perhaps the motorist responsible for the injured opossum was driving a sports utility vehicle, and was unaware of their offense. This however does not explain the numerous other people who just drove on by as if compassionate conservatism does not include the species that share southern California with us.

Ironically, the street where the opossum was injured is one where residents are fighting roadside trails. Citing Eolus as unsafe, due to speeding drivers, homeowners say getting pedestrians out of the street would damage the rural character of the area. Yet the rural character of the neighborhood does not keep these same people from driving as if they were on the German autobahn

Small animals should not be considered as traffic calming devices, but they should be considered. It's not like we don't know that they are out there, and regardless of time of day or weather conditions, when we get behind the wheel we should do so with the understand that because of the crowded conditions in San Diego county there is more than just SUV's on the road.

The number of people killed or injured by hit and run drivers, is easy enough to find out with a few keystrokes. The number of animals killed each year will never be known because, we the dominant species on the planet don't care enough to even stop to ease their suffering, let alone record the ongoing carnage. Perhaps the next great test of our species will be to find room in our very small hearts for those who will never put the pedal to the metal.

Project Wildlife can be reached at 1.619.225.9202.

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