I thought it was a piece of paper floating on the highway.
Me and my Honda Civic careened towards it, at 100 kilometres an hour, at night.
As we raced closer, I realized it was a raccoon.
It had been hit.
It was on its back, waving at us to stop. Please.
I could not do so.
Me and my Honda raced over it. I felt the bump.
I was inconsolable.
For the rest of my drive home, I was sobbing, out loud.
I could not believe what had just happened. That I had run over a life. A raccoon, who probably had babies at home. Who was probably out for a stroll – or a food run.
Not sure why it had decided to play on a highway. But that decision cost him his life.
When I drove by the same spot the next day, he was nothing but a stain on the highway. My heart sunk. Another roadkill.
I have always had a soft spot for roadkill.
I felt so strongly about it at one point, that I wanted to do a photographic essay in sepia tones, and exhibit it at an art gallery.
But I was advised, at the time, that it may contribute to more accidents. As people develop more of an empathy for the animals that cross the road in front of us, and thereby crash and kill more people.
So I didn’t compile that photographic essay.
But I haven’t wavered from my path to avoid or bring awareness to roadkill.
To the senseless deaths that occur each and every day across our entire nation and world.
When hubby is driving, and a squirrel or bird or chipmunk threatens to cross the road in front of us, I have been known to scream quite loudly. So loud, that it unnerves said hubby, to the point where he says he will end up crashing – and both us and the said animal or bird, may perish.
So, I try to just close my eyes when we are travelling along a roadway where an animal may enter our path.
I offer a small prayer every time I see a skunk, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, cat, or even bird, which didn’t quite make it across or out of the path of a vehicle.
I witnessed one driver, after hitting a wild turkey and injuring it, stop and try to club it to death to cease any further suffering. Really?
I read an account in a newspaper about a man who had hit a small black bear – and tried to kill it with a rock to prevent it from suffering any further. Really?
I also know that to hit a moose is often worse for the driver. There have been numerous reported deaths after such collisions.
Hitting a moose has become so serious, that all along a stretch of highway between Muskoka and North Bay there has been a “moose fence” erected to stop moose and other wildlife from venturing onto the road. It’s a fence that would make any prison envious.
And deer often pose a similar risk. Although hitting one is tragic, usually for both deer and vehicle, I have heard of deer being flipped over vehicles only to kill people in another vehicle travelling behind.
That is doubly heartbreaking.
I do not favour animal existence over human existence, although some humans test my favour.
But I believe that we MUST learn to co-exist.
To have respect for each other.
My faith was restored in once instance when a family of ducks was crossing a busy road in front of a city transit bus. The driver had stopped the bus, and both directions of traffic waited while the babies were safely escorted by their parents to the other side. It was an emotionally charged incident where drivers in all lanes witnessed the event.
It was awesome.
And so, while I still may consider a sepia toned photographic essay of roadkill in the future, with the only purpose to increase awareness of the tragedy for both animals and humans, for now I will continue to remain vigilent for any creature who may dare venture into the path of my vehicle.