Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Feeding on Roadkill can be hazardous to one's health!

Eastern Chipmunks are quite plentiful in many natural areas. This one is up in a small tree, gathering some freshly developing leaves for sustenance.

But you often see them at the side of the road, trying to decide if it is worth tempting fate by running across in front of the car. Many are successful, but it seem like far too many end up like this.
This chipmunk isn't looking so chipper any more.

It is not uncommon to see half a dozen or more types of flattened fauna on the roads in some of our busier parks on an average day. Chipmunks, frogs, toads, snakes, birds, etc are all victims of the damage that vehicles, even bicycles, can do. Of course dead animals tend to attract scavengers, whether it is a Turkey Vulture or something as small as flies. We are fortunate that there are lots of scavengers, or the roads would be awash in dead things!

I watched the action around this dead chipmunk not too long ago. There were dozens of flies on it, and seemed to be a member of the Blow Fly group. They weren't eating the remains as vultures would be doing, but laying eggs in the flesh. In just a matter of hours, those eggs would hatch and the larvae, a.k.a. maggots, would begin their work of devouring the flesh. The larvae would go through several growth cycles, and in just a few days, emerge as adults and continue their life cycle.

But wait.....all those dark spots aren't living flies waiting to lay eggs. Upon another look, most of those black spots on the pavement were dead flies!
As I watched this life and death drama unfold, I saw a truck coming, along...not too fast, mind you but fast enough. Some of the flies escaped, but others, perhaps too busy laying eggs, were slower, and were struck by the truck, and now their carcasses were lying scattered about the initial dead chipmunk. Undoubtedly any developing larvae in this carcass would be killed as well...hence the title of this post.

This is a time of year when there will be many types of young wildlife starting to venture out in their world. Turtles that have been busy laying eggs, will soon have those eggs hatch if the raccoons don't get them first, and as they venture from their hatching site to the wetland areas, may be crossing roads. Snakes may be basking on the warm pavement.....snakes that lay eggs will have completed egg-laying by now or in short order.  Other species of snakes that give birth to live young, will need to bask a lot more to allow the young to develop inside them before giving birth, so they will seek out good basking sites. Young birds are leaving the nests, and may be on the roads at least temporarily until they become adept in flight.

So please, as you head out on the summer vacation, be mindful of the smaller members of wildlife that are just getting started in life. Watch the roads so that our native wildlife doesn't end up like this!

Have a great summer, and Happy Canada Day!


  1. Thamks for thinking of our little friends. Roads can be major mortality sinks, especially in the park.
    Lowering the speed limit to 30kph might help a bit. Maybe more signage in populated sections?
    A couple young guys Kyle & Kyle were counting roadkill two years ago. Wonder where the worst areas were?

    1. Thanks, Ken.....slower speed limits would help, as long as the drivers are observant in the first place.

      Good question about the worst road kill areas. I think north Lakeshore Road between the traffic circle and Bennett Ave was one of the areas, but of course that has some of the greatest volume of traffic, so no surprise there.