The Right Word

ROADKILL STUDY DEAD ON ARRIVAL

Researchers at California State University, Davis have released a study that identifies the California highways that lead the state in roadkill. The study is wrong.

Well, maybe not wrong, but flawed. The study only counted roadkill that was reported to the California Highway Patrol. I have no empirical proof because, seriously, who counts roadkill? But I guarantee there are highways with more roadkill than Highway 101 through the San Fernando Valley. Any animal killed on that particular stretch of freeway committed suicide, because not even the CHP tries to cross that road.

The study identified State Route 13 between Oakland and Berkeley as the third-worst road for animals in Northern California. I’m not sure I’ve ever been on that road, but it sounds like an unlikely choice. Number one in Northern California, I know a little about, Highway 280 between San Jose and San Francisco.

For long stretches, Highway 280 runs past beautiful open space, including a large reservoir, wooded areas and fields. High-speed collisions with deer have been common on the road since it opened. Even so, it doesn’t compare with many of California’s rural highways where, apparently, roadkill is not a reportable occurrence.

Here in Ventura County, I’ve seen roadkill from bears to bobcats. In between, there are deer, raccoons, opossums, the occasional domestic pet and, notably, skunks.

I say notably because skunks are the only roadkill that exact revenge for their demise. Roadkill is often difficult to identify. That is not the case with skunks. If not by appearance, then by aroma.

The odd thing about skunks is, I’ve never actually seen one alive. Clearly, they’re around and, I would think, hard to miss. But I’ve never seen one that wasn’t dead on the road. That fact may be proof that they’re hard to miss.

If the students at Davis really want to study roadkill, they need to go to Florida. On the highways in Florida I’ve seen dead alligators, wild boars, deer, raccoons, opossums, buzzards, hawks, livestock, snakes and, of course, skunks. The Florida roads are like touring a zoo, except that all the exhibits are flat.

Flawed as it may be, the study didn’t just report a problem, it offered solutions: fences and underpasses. They should have added brakes, swerving and honking. Then the study would have been complete. Or not. They didn’t cite opinions from any animals.


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