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Roadkill patrols carry off carrion

Staff writer

Vultures and coyotes can’t clean up everything.

The Kansas Department of Transportation gets two to three calls every other week about road kill on highways.

“People would be surprised, when they just notice the deer is no longer on the roadway,” KDOT employee Joe Palic said.

Palic and his fellow employees handle any dead animal, from skunks to armadillos to deer. Cattle are too huge, so they call the owner or a large animal truck.

Cleaning up animals involves working around the activity of highway traffic.

“Usually, we just go when there’s low traffic. You need to time the traffic to come out and get them safely,” Palic said. “We flash our lights, get a square-point shovel, give ‘em a scoop, and throw them into the tall grass.”

KDOT usually takes the animal carcasses a short distance from the road. Transporting it further is more of a hassle than it’s worth.

“I don’t think people realize how fast an animal will decompose and disappear,” Palic said. “It’s usually a matter of a day or two or three. Even for a deer. It becomes a lot more of a cumbersome process to drag it to the transfer station.”

Animals that feed on carrion may become road kill themselves, so highway maintenance moves the bodies to where it won’t be a problem if they attract scavengers.

“That’s generally why we’ll put it underneath a bridge somewhere,” Palic said. “Most of the animals that eat carrion are used to crossing underneath the road there anyway.”

The animal tissue deteriorates more quickly in the summer heat. Palic says road kill can pull apart by the time they reach it, either from weather exposure or from repeatedly being hit by vehicles.

“This time of the year, road kill gets pretty gross in a hurry,” said fellow employee Kevin Jirak.

“If you get a call about it on the weekend and come back Monday, it’s not a fun Monday, that’s for sure,” Palic added.

Even large animal strikes like deer may go unreported if the car isn’t damaged. This leaves it ambiguous how many animal strikes occur yearly.

“There’s close to 10,000 deer accidents a year in Kansas,” Palic said. “I see around 9,000 to 11,000 a year. You don’t see a big truck pulled over from hitting a deer, they just keep heading down the road. We come barreling down the roads every day.”

Last modified July 29, 2021

 

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