I never got tired of reading Maurice Sendak’s children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are”.
It is the story of young Max who is sent to his room for misbehaving.
Max imagines a “wild rampage” with a group of fantastical monsters. His story has a happy ending, unlike thousands of real Michigan wild things who are run over.
Last spring, I started paying attention to the animal deaths I passed while merrily heading anywhere. I have watched the sad and bloody deaths of porcupines, raccoons, skunks, tortoises, rabbits, squirrels, birds, possums, a black bear, and of course deer. If my observations were broadcast, there would be a warning to viewers about “the graphic nature of what one is about to see.” But usually we pass by these unfortunate neighbors of the forest without looking or thinking about their pain and loss.
State Farm reports that there were 132,387 animal-vehicle collisions in Michigan during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The insurer ranks Michigan fourth among states with the highest risk of animal-vehicle collisions. He also reports that if you’re behind the wheel in the Mitten, you have a 1 in 54 chance of hitting an animal. And we’re heading into the most dangerous months for large animal/vehicle collisions: October, November and December.
Where wild creatures follow accidents is another story. Local highway commissions are primarily responsible for removing deer carcasses from highways. What about the rest of Noah’s lost Ark? An outdoorsman from southeastern Michigan takes it upon himself to provide a free, humane removal of animal collision fatalities. Gary Cornellier goes beyond the task of documenting crash sites in hopes of determining if a crash site is unique or an animal death trap in need of solutions.
A Texas college professor developed her own lore around animal deaths along the highway. Amanda Stronza honors those she encounters by creating beautiful memorials for each one made of flowers, seeds, and grasses.
Michigan law regarding what are called crude hit-and-runs regulates which animals can be picked up and the process required to do so. “Salvage permits” are obtained through the DNR Wildlife Division. However, many species are excluded, including bobcat, moose, wolf, turkey, bear cubs, fawns, and others.
Dare to look the next time you come across a dead animal on the road. Isn’t that the least we can do to acknowledge the wild things sacrificed to our way of life?
Sally Barber is a newspaper reporter and travel writer who has written for more than 25 visitor bureaus and state chamber of commerce organizations. She is the author of “The Michigan Eco-Traveler: A Guide to Sustainable Adventures in the Great Lakes State,” available through the University of Michigan Press.