Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can Roadkill Serve A Worthy Purpose?

As a USU Aggie and former Utahan, I'm still interested in the Rocky Mountain wildlife. This week my daughter went with her Mom to Utah to visit Grandma, Grandpa and the cousins for Christmas. One of the great things they'll probably see are the deer that come down from the snow covered mountains to feed. In Grandma Pope's particular neighborhood, the deer love the fallen apples left over from the fall harvest. I was thinking of this precisely at the moment I ran into this article.

As a subscriber of the Outdoor Press Room, I check in weekly to see what the headlines are, and this week there is a captivating article regarding the number of road kill mule deer in the state of Utah.  The article, by Brett Prettyman, UT road-killed and hunter-killed deer numbers nearly equal, goes on to say that "with an already struggling mule deer population, Utah wildlife officials are concerned that recent estimates indicate the number of road-killed mule deer may actually exceed the number taken by hunters in the Beehive State."  Were not talking a few mulies here, the numbers of road kill deer are in excess of 20,000!  Unbelievable!

Now as a Floridian, its making me start to wonder about our road-killed wildlife.  I'll have to look up the Florida FWC numbers, but when I asked myself, Are more possum killed by small game hunters or by cars?, I laughed out loud!  Florida drivers smashing possum and armadillos, attract more buzzards than Palm Beach attracks New York retirees.  But does this, or can this have any beneficial affect to us and our families, or is it just a sad sad thing?

Like it or not, we're part of the ecosystem, and the urbanization of our once pristine land has come at the detriment of wildlife, possum and mule deer alike.  In Utah, the homes crawl up the mountain side, so they've put up deer fences.  In Florida I do see some roadside game fences, but mostly I see six lanes of concrete from Miami to Jacksonville to Pensacola.  Its a wonder we still have wildlife at all, but I do see one bright spot in all of this gloom and negativity to the future of our game.

Use the main idea of this story to teach your kids.  Even a three year old who sees a dead animal on the roadside with a vulture feeding on it can begin to understand this one small part of the ecosystem.  When one animal dies, it may allow another to live.  I admit, that's a pretty somber story for a toddler to learn, but when is the right time to start teaching about the food chain, decreasing wildlife habitat and natural resource conservation?  If you teach this while they're young, it may have a greater impact on the decisions they make as adults, when they can make choices that will make a difference.  Photo Credits: by joeesabol of Flickr! and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

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