Signs of Spring: Raccoon Road Kill

Why did the raccoon cross the road?  To get to the Other Side.  By that, I mean because, by the looks of things around town, they sure ain't making it to the other side of the street.

Dead raccoons on 235, north of the intersection with Route 309.  A suicide pact, perhaps?

Dead raccoons on 235, north of the intersection with Route 309.  A suicide pact, perhaps?

Their big brown carcasses are lumped up along the side of 235 and 81 to Lima.  They dot the shoulder of 309 to Kenton.  Some of them got as far as the double yellow line before their Goodyear goodbye.  

Raccoon road kill started showing up in the last two weeks.  Is this a grisly harbinger of spring?  Tired of being cooped up in the den, binge-watching Duck Dynasty, light-headed from a lack of fresh food,  do they forget that asphalt is not their friend?  Or are they so driven by spring lust that they think those headlights are the stars in their intended's beady little eyes?

I almost became road kill myself, driving around one morning with Mark and taking pictures of the poor little things.  One was curled up like he was just snoozing.  That used to be a convention of photographic memento mori in Victorian times, putting the deceased in poses that made them look like they were "just sleeping,"  or even still alive, eyes wide open.  Weird.

No, I'm not dead, I'm napping.  Just got tired of the den, want a little change of pace.  This asphalt feels really comfy.

No, I'm not dead, I'm napping.  Just got tired of the den, want a little change of pace.  This asphalt feels really comfy.

Okay, obsessing over dead raccoons qualifies as weird, too.  I pitched this story to my editor at the Ada Icon.  There was no hesitation.  "Um, I don't think so," he said.  "There's no mystery to this.  It's just mating season."

Just mating season?  Would you dare say to your daughter, sir, that it's just prom?  Raccoons only have two to three years on this planet, and they've got to live fast.  But they should know better than to actually live in the fast lane.  Raccoons are supposedly able to remember the solution to tasks for up to three years.  How come they can't remember to look both ways before crossing a street?

Lest you think the fresh air in Ohio is making me a little daft, I'm not the only one thinking about roadkill. The University of California, Davis, has a Road Ecology Center.  It hosts a California Roadkill Observation System, where travelers can enter data on what they saw dead on the side of the road, and where.  The point is to see if there are any patterns that might lead to, say, slower speed requirements for certain stretches of road, or the creation of migration corridors.  Researchers at the Center recently proposed building a 22-mile stretch of fencing along both sides of I-280 in San Mateo County, near San Francisco, to cut down on deer kills.

Who collects these critters?  This guy's been gracing 235, north of town, for a while.

Who collects these critters?  This guy's been gracing 235, north of town, for a while.

 

Leave it to California to be the state thinking deep thoughts about these encounters.  

I took a look at about a week's worth of data collected by the Roadkill Observation System, to see whether California's coons were getting squashed like they are here.  Between March 14 and March 22, only three roadkill raccoons were spotted.  That's a pittance compared to the mean streets of Hardin County.  Raccoons of rural Ohio should think about ditching their easy access to corn and soybeans and consider heading to the Left Coast.  They'd live longer.