I don't know about you, but I am tired of seeing so many dead animals on the side of the road! The winter snow has finally melted away, revealing countless carcasses that have now become landmarks along my daily commute between Allegan and Kalamazoo.
No surprise the majority of this roadkill seems to be deer, but as I see them daily along M-89 and US-131 I'm starting to notice their deteriorating state as I drive by each day. It honestly grosses me out and it got me wondering: what happens to all the roadkill along our roads and whose job is it to clean all that up?
Deer are a constant threat to Michigan drivers. In 2020 there were 1,014 reported crashes involving a deer in Kalamazoo County alone. There also seems to be an exceptionally dense deer population along Winchell Avenue in Kalamazoo! There are several options when it comes to dealing with roadkill along West Michigan's roads:
- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) removes it
- A private contractor is hired to remove it
- It just sits there to decompose
As it turns out, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, whom you'd assume would be heavily involved in the recovery of animals carcasses, rarely gets involved in roadkill cases unless it involves consumption. Yes, if you would like to haul away a deer involved in a crash for your own possession you are allowed to do so, provided you fill out a roadkill salvage permit.
Just last week I noticed some official-looking trucks parked along 131/BUS-131 and I thought, "Finally! Someone is coming to remove all this roadkill." I was wrong. The Michigan DNR has reportedly been collecting the heads from these deer carcasses to test them for Chronic Wasting Disease among West Michigan's deer population but only the heads were removed-- the rest of the deer is just left on the side of the road to decompose.
In the past several county road commissions, such as the Calhoun County Road Department, had carcass removal programs but many were removed due to budget cuts. Private contractors like Rascal Wildlife Removal Services in Hickory Corners or Michigan Highway Hazard Recovery in Capac have been hired by MDOT to remove roadkill along I-94 in the past, but only if the deer is lying in a traffic lane. If a deer is along the side of the road, Calhoun County will not pay to have it removed.
Sgt. Carter Woodwyk, a DNR conservation officer in Allegan County, tells WMMT that, "Occasionally, the local road commission will remove carcasses on the sides of roads. But typically, they will be left to naturally decompose."
That means much to my (and your) disappointment, we're stuck looking at dead deer, opossums, skunks, etc. until nature takes its course and the remains decompose--great!