A white tail deer (left) and a coyote (right) are casualties of the road. Vehicle collisions can have a significant impact on wildlife populations.
A bobcat (Lynx rufus) investigates the carcass of a white tail deer. Scavengers of road kill are also at risk of vehicle collisions because the food source draws their movements close to traffic.
Wildlife and Vehicles don't mix
Feeding Wildlife and Unintended Consequences:
Although free hand-outs may bring a wild animal within viewing distance and yield a memorable encounter, there are many reasons why this is considered an unethical, even illegal practice in many places. Feeding wildlife can have unintended consequences. Negative effects can manifest themselves in several ways. Human residences are often within close proximity to one other and are connected by busy roads that have vehicle traffic. White tail deer in particular will accumulate in high densities next to these locations and form routine movement patterns based on the feeding stations. The animals being fed can lose fear of people which may make them more susceptible to hunting and fur trapping pressures. They may additionally become accustomed to unnatural and potentially unhealthy food sources (popular example for deer: corn); the term for this is habituation. Another consequence of feeding stations may be the inadvertent spread of pathogens and aid in the proliferation of diseases such as Chronic Wastings Disease (CWD) and brain worm in deer. And of course, collisions of vehicles with wildlife. These sorts of Impacts very dangerous to drivers, to the animal, and to the scavengers who feed on the road-kill carcass next to the busy road.
Whenever I have a safe opportunity to remove a road kill carcass (deer or any other species) from the roadway or roadside ditch--I do. The smell and sight of the carcass will lure many scavenger species to the roadside, exposing those animals to the same fate. By moving the carcass and placing a remotely triggered camera on it, I have been able to document what sorts of animals scavenge road kill and are also at risk of being hit. While I do not condone baiting for wildlife photography I make an exception with road kill (it is a local, natural food source that would attract these scavengers anyways). I will always disclose if road kill was an attractant when sharing a photo. When I physically move the carcass I make sure to call a local conservation officer and obtain a permit. It helps environmental law enforcement keep track of the deceased animal mostly for population information and to prevent inadvertent disease transmission.
What can you do to help?
--Use safe and responsible driving practices such as obeying the speed limit, being ready to slow down at a moments notice and watching for approaching wildlife on either side of the roadway.
--Do not swerve for wildlife in the road way as this can endanger the driver and increase your odds of ending up off of the road. In the event of an immanent collision slow down as much as possible without locking up the brakes.
--Remove road kill from the immediate road-way when it is safe to do so or call someone who can. A phone call to the local conservation officer or road-authority is generally a good bet as they will have safe practices and a protocol for removing a carcass from traffic.
--Do not condone feeding wildlife, especially near busy roads and help to educate others why this is dangerous.
--Advocate for safe wildlife crossing structures such as wildlife corridors over or under highways.