Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's opossums in the autumn, and it's farm cats in the spring

If you recognize the title of this entry, then I can say two things about you. You know who Tom Waits is, and probably listen to his music, and you know this post is going to be about roadkill. If you don't know, go find the song "Murder in the Red Barn", and have a listen, then come back.

Admittedly, Tom is an acquired taste that most people never acquire.

This post, like Tom Waits, some might find distasteful, so I'll do the nice thing and insert a jump break for those who don't want to read about dead stinky animals. So if you're game hit the jump and let's talk about roadkill.

One thing I like about riding my bike every day is the chance to observe my surroundings closely. All the little things that are missed by people zooming by in cars, are there for me to experience. The secret patch of blackberries along the side of the road, the smell of damp forest floor in the fall, and a wild turkey hiding in the tall grass about 50 feet from the road are examples of what I get to experience from my bike and cars completely miss.

Some roadkill has longevity

However, you can add to this list of good a list of bad, such as choking on the exhaust from a car that clearly needs to be retired or repaired, drivers who are either oblivious or have a sense of entitlement to the road and wish me ill, and of course the topic of this post, roadkill.

Why am I writing about roadkill?

Well, I write about my biking experience, and dead animals on the side of the road can have a subtle effect on the experience, or a profound effect depending on the quality of the carrion.

Most of my bike route is fairly rural, and as far as I can tell there is no system for roadkill removal. So I witness the dead and decaying. I witness the small, (frogs, snakes, birds) the large (deer), and the odd, (iPad, beaver).

The critter pictured above is notable or one reason, longevity. That little patch of skin has been lying in that very spot for over a year now! I do remember when it was fresh, but I can't for the life of me remember what type of animal it was. It was most likely a squirrel or a opossum, that's what I see the most of around here. I'm just amazed it has been there so long.

The worst experience I've ever had with roadkill was a deer that was killed on my usual route last summer. If you've made it this far but you have a weak stomach STOP READING NOW. This particular deer was hit and killed near the aforementioned secret blackberry patch. You can bet I don't stop there for blackberries anymore. The first couple of days the deer smelled a little and the carcass was inflated, oh yeah microbiology at work. Then one day, something terrible and putrid happened. As I was climbing the hill towards this carcass (yes, on a hill so I had no choice but to go slow while huffing and puffing) I smelled something far stronger than the previous days. As I approached the deer I noticed the stomach and chest cavity had burst open and was nothing but a writhing mass of maggots! Maggots upon maggots over the entire chest and stomach area of a full-grown white-tail deer, vomit. The smell was oppressive and the image of thousands upon thousands of maggots is burned into my retinas, forever. The next day the writhing mass was essentially gone, but the carcass smelled awful for a month. On the bright side, in an effort to avoid the smell I found some nice alternate routes to work that I have blogged about here.

One more notable bit of roadkill is the time I saw a dead beaver. Only notable because I've never seen a beaver in the wild before. This one was way larger than I expected a beaver to be. I guess I always expected beavers to be about the size of groundhogs. But I would put this thing at about 50-60 lbs., which is how big our mid-size dogs are. I found the beaver carcass to be a bit sadder than most roadkill because beavers mate for life. So I figured that this animal's death left behind a beaver widow or widower.

Anyway, that's enough talk about roadkill. Have a safe holiday weekend, and try not to think about writhing masses of maggots.

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