Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Small animals on the back roads

Last week, I blogged about the challenges of driving where
you may encounter big game. Alas, small animals also use the backroads and can
become victims as well. Squirrels and rabbits seem to be the most common
animals encountered on roads. Like deer, they often appear indecisive and can
be difficult to avoid.


Our local resident geese population can also be obstacles.
Their slow sedate march across the road sometimes causes them to become the
victims. Geese and also ducks with young will not fly and if they start across
a roadway are totally at the mercy of drivers. Most drivers will try to avoid
wildlife but even animal lovers can sometimes cause deaths simply because the
animals don’t behave as expected or other traffic make car animal collisions
unavoidable. Considering the size of a grown goose, drivers would do well to
avoid collision with them. Imagine what one would do to a windshield?


Turtles and snakes are certainly at the mercy of drivers.
Few turtles are seen on the roads in this arid area but of course they move so
slowly that they are on the road a long time once they start a journey across
it. Snakes apparently enjoy the retained heat in the roadway and will sometimes
lie on the road for warmth. Sadly, many people will run over any snake with the
justification that they thought it to be a rattler. Most dead snakes that I
have seen on the road dead are bull snakes, a harmless and useful snake that
somewhat resembles rattlesnakes. Although many motorists can’t be bothered to
identify a snake before they run over it, I see a lot of people on back roads
stop to look at dead snakes apparently to verify the species.


Like the larger species, small mammals and snakes are often
active at night and can hit when they are suddenly in the headlights. Birds are
more likely to be hit in the daytime.


Although larger animals such as deer may survive a collision
at low speed, smaller animals are nearly always killed outright. Of course
collisions should be avoided at all times but considering the possible impact
on young animals, collisions in the spring can be particularly tragic. A female
mammal killed in the spring will usually mean young that die of neglect.
Likewise female birds that are killed usually mean that the young are at
serious risk. In some birds species, the male also tends the young but ‘single
parenting’ in animal species can mean that the young are left alone for long
periods while the surviving parent forages, and the predators often move in.


Animal vehicle collisions can not all be avoided sadly. If
you enjoy wildlife, a routine drive can be an opportunity to see nature.
Looking for wildlife can mean looking out for them on the roadway. Be
especially alert in areas where you may have seen wildlife in the past and at
the times of day when animals are most active. Often an animal on the roadway
at night is visible by variations in dark and light patterns. Slow down if you
see animals near or on the roadway. Not only may you save the animals life, you
may avoid some expensive damage to your vehicle!