Monday, October 26, 2009

Roadkill Cougar

We see them every day, but how sad it is to witness a creature prone, stiff, or bloated as we pass by in our vehicles. A audible groan can be heard throughout the car if one is clearly someone pet, or how we feel even worse if it is our own vehicle which accidentally hits a creature. Recent posts by Camera Trap Codger, and Journals of an Amateur Naturalist have discussed roadkill otters as sad victims of highway casualty. In the east especially, the top animals to end up as roadkill are: Raccoons, Deer, Skunks, Opossum, Dogs, Cats, Groundhog, and Squirrels.

On a Sunday morning I sadly witnessed an unusual creature in the center line. A beautiful Gray Fox was lying on the black asphalt, obviously not alive anymore. The white and gray face, gray and rusty color of the body strikingly different than the surrounding tar. I was upset as I could only think of the amazing encounter I had with a gray fox earlier in the year, and hope it wasn't the same animal now sprawled in the lane. Torn between the horror of the scene and the curiosity to examine the beautiful animal closer, Dad refused my idea to photograph it. I have often wracked my head in thought to how the road could be altered to lessen the occurrence of roadkill, for the safety of both humans and animals, but have yet to think of a viable solution.

Discussing the Eastern Cougar, roadkill is one of the plausible evidence for proving the animals existence. When an actual body of a cougar is found, DNA can prove the lineage and also the existence of the animal which many dismiss inhabits the east. I for one am dismayed when I read about a roadkill of a mountain lion, as the graceful and powerful animal almost seems too wild invincible to be hurt. Then is the fact I am confused about how reports of cougars hit by cars and called into the game authorities seem to somehow never have any log or knowledge of the incident. And of course I have heard about how some people say they have a roadkill cougar and when the authorities come to pick it up, it is actually a dog.

the tragedy of cougars hit by car is nowhere as strong as it is in Florida. The Florida Panther is fewer than 100 individuals in the everglades of Florida. With roads crossing through the scrub land and panthers moving further into developed areas, the number of roadkill panthers is always growing. This year alone there have been 14 Florida Panthers which were hit by vehicles. 14 panthers a year can devastate the 100 or less population. One solution has been to create animal passageways under the road, so a creature can pass under the road to get to the other side, without touching the road. This is a good effort, but not completely reliable, as well as very few passageways per large stretches of road. The question is what can be done? But until we have a brilliant idea which won't cost much, we are going to see the increase in roadkill animals.

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