Again, there's a greater sense of ritual when it comes to handling dogs and occasionally cats: "Owners sometimes want the body back, and we don't just throw them into a back room -- we lay them on a tarp or old blanket in case they are claimed. It's not much, but because many people see them as family or guardian, we give them some respect." This is actually a procedure that took some time to fine-tune, through trial and occasionally traumatizing error: "Our old way was to pile them in the truck. We got complaints about it when we didn't cover the bodies up -- sometimes a dead dog would be on top of the pile. We had to start covering them every time, because furious parents called us when their kids saw an open-eyed, dead dog staring back at them and got upset." Oops.
It's a lot harder to sell "That dog is just sleeping!" when he's "sleeping" on half of an elk.
With larger, more delicious animals, the driver will sometimes take Bambi home for dinner, saving Brandon and his co-workers the trouble of cleanup. Otherwise, highway techs dispense with ceremony for any wild animal larger than a raccoon: For deer and their similarly sized friends, it's the compost heap. "The carcasses are evenly spaced, mixed in with leaves and wood chips and other things cleared near highways, heated up to reduce the smell, and several months later, thoroughly composted into good soil. Farmers take some and the transportation department puts the rest back into landscaping projects. Those nice little parks outside of rest stops? Part of that is possible thanks to roadkill."
But that's just in some states. Other municipalities, like Rochester, New York, give their fresh roadkill to the local zoo as a special treat for carnivores. Indiana decided they couldn't let all those valuable deer guts go to waste, so they repurpose them into products like glue or Walter White them chemically into slurry. Some states just burn the bodies, while the state of New York goes the extra mile with a full sky burial, leaving the bodies out and depending on coyotes and vultures to do the dirty work.
But there's another group that may be picking up the slack on clearing the roads: foodies. Although skimming the shoulder the way you would your local meat counter has always been a hillbilly punchline, it's also a burgeoning trend in some circles. A handful of states have legalized "harvesting" roadkill, and while it's a little off-putting to see Car And Driver magazine publishing recipes, roadkill certainly is a more economic source of protein for the broke and undiscerning.
The North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish, Montana, actually accepts donations of what its staff members call "vehicle-tenderized meat." Even PETA has given the practice its blessing, arguing that if you have to feast on flesh, roadkill is more humane than anything factory-slaughtered, because it's likely "the animals never knew what hit them." Was that a pun? Did PETA just pun at us? We ... expected no better from you, PETA.
Evan V. Symon is the interview finder guy and interviewer for the personal experience team. Have an awesome/amazing job/experience? Hit us up at email@example.com!
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