Our corner of the province is alive with all sorts of wildlife: chipmunks, deer, frogs, groundhogs, moose, porcupines, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and turtles. Unfortunately, almost all of the ones I see are dead, splattered road kill. Our commuting cars and truck transports have invaded their territory. So what can motorists do to reduce this slaughter?
Let’s start with nighttime driving. Moderate your speed and use your high beams wherever possible. If you have met deer in the immediate area, flash your high beams to alert motorists approaching the sighting area. Drivers will take your signal as a warning that there’s a speed trap or an accident ahead, prompting them to moderate their speed and increase their vigilance. That might save the deer’s life and reduce the likelihood of the car’s front end being bashed in.
Daytime driving: take notice of the yellow ‘heads up’ signs with black silhouettes of deer, moose or turtles. These indicate high likelihood of activity in these areas. Speed moderation and increased vigilance should be exercised.
The road presence of chipmunks, frogs, groundhogs, porcupines, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and turtles is no threat to motorists, but is most likely to have fatal consequence for those creatures. Swerving is of little value, because most of those animals tend to take unpredictable but pointless evasive action. A prudent application of brakes is the best option. A panic stop could result in being rear- ended by a tailgater or skidding out of control off the roadway and into a ditch or oncoming car.
Finally, turtles: a mature snapping turtle can weigh as much as 35 pounds. The only things it might be able to outrun are a clam, molasses in winter and a toddler going off to bed. However, its ability to snap is quicker than a mouse trap’s snap or the Lone Ranger’s draw.
What to do if you encounter a snapping turtle stranded in the middle of a highway? Stop, put on your four-way flashers, then observe. Which way is it headed? If it’s stalled, Mr. (or Mrs.) Turtle needs a boost. CAA isn’t equipped with turtle booster cables.
Remove a floor mat from your car. Approach the turtle from the rear. Wrap the mat over the turtle, grasping it and the turtle at the mid-section. Lift slowly, walk carefully, deposit the turtle in a grassy or watery area away from the highway.
You’ve just earned some brownie points, or a plenary indulgence, by rescuing a creature that can live more than forty years.