Road Kill Locations

99% of the road kill I see is on the side of the road. But the animals were obviously hit in the road itself. I would have thought whosever job it was to move them to the side of the road might have also removed them entirely. But perhaps there are two separate entities, one whose job it is to move them to the side of the road and the other to dispose of the bodies. Perhaps the first is connected to the roads maintenance people and the second to sanitation. Is this what accounts for it?

A couple of possibilities:

  1. Momentum: when the car hits the animal, the animal gains momentum, goes flying through the air, and lands on the side of the road

  2. The animal does not die after the initial contact, and attempts to crawl back to shelter (ground covering on the side of the road), but doesn’t make it

  3. In the case of smaller animals, larger scavengers may drag the body aside, but heavy traffic or other predators scares the scavengers away, or you simply don’t see them during your driving hours (night-time predators, for example)

  4. For sufficiently small animals, crouching would allow them to not get hit by most of a car (it would pass right over them) but the animal would get hit by the tires. I tend to think of roadkill as being either on the shoulder or centre line of the road, which would correspond well with a tire hit.

  1. Random walk. Once dead, the carcass continues to be struck by later traffic. Each impact has a random chance of moving it closer to the edge or the middle. But once at the road’s edge, it’s no longer being moved.

*** Ponder

I contest the statement of the OP that the vast majority of road kill can be found at the roadside. When I lived in Ohio, and possum was a common roadkill, they were as often in the middle of the road as not. Same with skunk whereever I have lived.

I think they get moved their by passing motorists. Particularly dogs and cats in respect for the owners, so that they may bury their pet.

I’d agree with this. I often see roadkill in the middle of the road. Of course, if it stays on the road it is more likely to be pulverized by tires, and will disappear or become unrecognizable as an animal more rapidly.

For larger animals, the cops will likely be the first authority types on the scene. They’ll drag it to the shoulder to make the lane safely passable. Then it’ll sit there for the road maintenance people to pick up later this week or next. Or not, and let the vultures enjoy it.

I think you can sum up the posts so far thus: If it’s too big to drive over, someone will stop and move it out of the road. If it’s small enough to driver over, and in the road, it’ll quickly become a smear, if it’s not in the road, it’ll not become a smear, and you’ll notice it.

Good grief, yes! When I lived in the NE and travelled through most of those states, the roads were littered with all manner of carcasses. Some squished, some being eaten by crows, some pretty fresh.

Interestingly, when we moved to Arizona, the first thing we noticed was the almost complete absence of road kill of any kind. We soon realized that with the buzzards, coyotes and other critters, they just got eaten up or carried away quickly. Actually it is a relief. In 14 years here, only once did I see a dead coyote by the side of the road. They are pretty smart, and usually wait until the car passes to dash across the road.

See the classic song “Dead skunk in the middle of the road”. By Jed Strunk.

Also known as Loudon Wainwright III

I retract my previous claim that Jed Strunk was Loudon Wainwright. I could have sworn that the song I used to here on the radio was attributed to Jed Strunk. A search does not coroborate this.