EUGENE, Ore. – The bloody animals that freckle the road are ignored by cars that speed down smooth highways.
The blemishes on the side of the road are seen as driving hazards rather than bodies that once hosted life.
Children are told not to look as parents cruise past evidence of the mortality trap that humans have created.
But somebody has to deal with roadkill.
Meet Bob Edmiston. The City of Eugene employee has been cleaning the streets and maintaining the underbelly of Eugene for 26 years.
“Roadkill has an impact," Edmiston said. "People don’t associate with death very well. They try to ignore it."
He responds quickly to calls for dead animal pickup near elementary schools to ease the minds of nearby adults that kids will not see or ask about death.
Roadkill collection is crucial for street sanitation because decomposing bodies build up in storm drains and can result in river pollution.
“I guess I don’t relate to it as death. I see it as debris because that’s my job,” said Edmiston.
Edmiston also identifies dead cats and dogs to worried pet owners. There is a differential postmortem treatment; domestic animals are cremated and wild animals are collected and stored until there are enough bodies to warrant the dump fee at the landfill.
“It gets in your clothes, and it smells foul all day,” says Edmiston.
Deer, possum, cats, dogs, mice, rats, birds, squirrels and raccoons are some of the more common animals that Edmiston collects. He also picks up wild turkeys, goats, cougars, coyotes and nutria, the invasive, semi-aquatic, terrier-sized rodents.
Some people eat roadkill.
“We’ll get calls for deer, and when we arrive they’re gone. They don’t walk away. If it’s fresh, people eat the meat, sure,” Edmiston said. He also sometimes finds deer with their antlers sawed off which he assumes people keep as trophies.
Justin Hicks, of McLagan’s Taxidermy in Bend, says that people often bring in what looks like roadkill. Although each state varies on the legalities of keeping roadkill, in Oregon, with a seasonal hunting license, people can stuff or eat what they hit.
Edmiston used to take fresh deer to the Eugene Mission to be served to the homeless, but The Mission stopped taking donated roadkill years ago due to health concerns.
However, the lean meat from deer and longhorn sheep could provide a healthy non-greasy chorizo, said Clarence Martel, the kitchen manager.
“Roadkill usually has damaged organs which bleed out, causing live bacteria to contaminate the rest of the meat and turns it green.” he said.
Gritty jobs such as roadkill collection maintain the underbelly of the city and keep the surface looking pure. Whether you eat it, stuff it, or dump it, don’t ignore it, and consider the roadkill. This type of death is intertwined, yet unnoticed in urban life. @GinaGinsberg.
If you find an injured animal, call the Willamette Wildlife Rehabilitation Hotline: 541-485-8440.