Roadkill Science and the Dangers of Biking in L.A.!

July 26, 2013

What is the grossest thing that can happen to you while you are biking? Give up? Being splattered by freshly killed roadkill juice that’s what—did I mention it was a skunk? This was my luck the other day as I was heading over to a picnic at the newly opened Echo Park Lake. Needless to say this trauma has caused me to extra vigilant and observant of roadkill of late. So much so, that I’ve even taken to participating in roadkill science—see it’s not creepy to get up close and personal with roadkill—it’s science! Tuesday, on my day off, I drove around town looking for roadkill. I found two unfortunate animals who tried to cross the road (okay one of them was crossing a parking lot, but that makes for a terrible joke). I took pictures of them and submitted them to the California Roadkill Observation System (CROS). It was really easy, and I liked the fact that I didn’t have to sign up or make an account. Here are the entries: A pigeon that expired in an In-N-Out parking lot:

An Eastern Fox Squirrel that didn’t cross the road, in the Larchmont area:

But what’s the bigger picture here? Why do scientists care about roadkill observations? Why has Fraser Shilling, biologist at UC Davis’ Road Ecology Center, bothered to create CROS? “According to the Humane Society of the United States, over a million animals are killed every day on our roads and highways. We have created CROS to provide a way for people like you to report roadkill so that we can understand and try to influence the factors that contribute to roadkill.” When I read, “a million animals a day,” I was pretty floored. And then I realized this was just North America we’re talking about! I feel a bit powerless in this situation. I guess the best I can do is ride my bike a bit more, and try to stop and take a picture of roadkill when I see it. Then maybe, just maybe, the research findings can influence design of sustainable transportation systems that will mitigate impacts on natural landscapes and the wildlife that calls it home.

(Posted by: Lila Higgins)

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