Hump Day: Roadkill guilt: a New Brunswick heartbreak

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Editorial section

If you’ve driven for any number of years, you’ve likely run over a few animals. Personally, I’ve run over cats, bunnies and pheasants. The latest was on Sunday night when an unfortunate porcupine met its match after it met my vehicle head on.

The worst incident I’ve ever been personally involved in was years ago when I came up over the crest of a hill to find a mother duck and her ducklings crossing the road. It did not go well. Enough said about that.

As an animal lover and pet person, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hell after that, which will likely involve a bunch of very angry ducklings pecking out my eyes.

The guilt I feel after causing roadkill is just awful. Maybe some people can just brush it off as ‘just a porcupine’ or ‘just a raccoon’ or whatever, but my brain goes right to a soap opera version of events.

Let’s see . . . maybe the porcupine I shmucked on Sunday night was on his way back home after a long day of doing whatever porcupines do. Instead of just imagining some random no-name generic porcupine, my guilty mind goes right to a porcupine with a wife and kids waiting for Dad to get home.

Little do they know that he’s lying in the middle of the highway with a permanent indent of a New Brunswick licence plate in the middle of his forehead.

And that dead raccoon on the side of the road? Well, she was just headed out to raid a garbage can because her kids woke up hungry in the middle of the night.

And that family of ducklings I sent to Heaven prematurely? On their way for swimming lessons in the local pond, of course. Not being able to get over the accident, the ducklings’ mother became addicted to drugs after I took out most of her family. She then lost all her feathers because of stress and is now running around with a bad gang of crows.

I don’t cause roadkill very often, but when I do I always worry about who’ll be waiting for the victim to get home – especially if they may have had babies who were counting on them for nourishment.

When all is said and done, I suppose it’s better to be overly empathetic than not give a rat’s patootie about the animals one happens to send to that big green pasture in the sky. There’s a reason I never became a hunter like my father and brother. In fact, I don’t even think I could go fishing now. I would feel too badly for the fish as they lay dying after being caught.

I guess this means that I’ll never be in the abattoir business. It also means I’d make a really crummy farmer. I’d have a field full of cattle originally meant to be eaten but who just end up being really expensive (and large) pets. Selling them to a meat processing plant or a butcher would be out of the question, especially after I inevitably end up giving them all names like Fluffy, Rover and Spot.

Fluffy should be out frolicking in the field with her friends, not making my kitchen smell delicious while simmering in a slow cooker alongside carrots and onions. Yeah, I’d make a really terrible farmer. I can buy meat in the stores or from farmers at the market, but there’s no way I would be able to raise them myself just to be eaten.

I can’t imagine hitting something very large with my vehicle. I know people who have hit bears, deer and moose. It must be terrifying.

Moose: now there’s an animal that will send a chill down your spine if you ever see one on the side of the road. If you’ve never seen one, you probably don’t realize how huge they are in comparison to your vehicle.

Drive by one closely, however, and you’ll realize immediately why so many people have been killed or terribly injured by these monsters.

A bull moose, especially, is something that causes one to be awestruck when seen up close. It’s certainly not something you want to come upon suddenly in the dark at night on a highway. Most vehicles meet their match when it comes to moose.

While I feel badly for the small animals I send to the pearly gates and live in terror of one day coming up to a moose on a dark highway, I have no pity for the kabillion jillion insects that meet their maker on my windshield every summer. Better my windshield than an itchy bite on my arm, right?

Now, I’m used to seeing insects. We all are. There are your regulation flies and mosquitoes, of course. In late spring, those pesky flying beetles called June bugs try to nest in our hair (or so legend has it) and send lots of people inside with the heebie jeebies – a scientific term if there ever was one.

But, I swear that some of the bugs who hit my windshield every summer are freaks of nature. The loud ‘splat’ sound they make followed by the incredibly huge stain on the windshield sometimes make me wonder whether or not I’ve hit a full-grown bird rather than a tiny insect. There’s one certain bug that always looks like someone threw a large water balloon full of lemon meringue pie filling on my windshield after I hit it.

So, Mr. Porcupine: I’m sorry I didn’t see you until the last possible second when it was too late to swerve. To those ducklings that still haunt me years later: I’m sorry, too. And somewhere out there, there’s a herd of beef cattle that hopes I buy their farm soon.

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