Composting Roadkill

I shudder to think how many animals are killed globally each year as the result of collisions with vehicles.

We’re not exactly short on kangaroos in Australia, but it still makes me sad to see one dead on the side of the road; particularly knowing that it may have suffered.

It’s a waste of life, but also a waste generally – and a single dead roo can result in other animal deaths too as creatures coming in to feed on it may also be struck.

It’s an issue just about everywhere, but the island state of Tasmania has a particularly severe roadkill problem. The lives of approximately 300,000 animals a year are violently ended by collisions (the state’s population is a bit over 500,000). That figure includes 3,000 Tasmanian Devils; which are in a world of trouble as is even without the vehicular threat.

The issue of roadkill numbers is one thing; but what about the results? That’s another problem.

These dead animals, if they are picked up by authorities, are often just treated as waste. That’s tragic on an emotional level, but also on a resource level too. These carcasses are basically one big bag of nutrients.

According to ABC News, there is now a push in Tasmania to compost roadkill. It seems if it were successful, it wouldn’t be the first place in the world to take such an action.

The US state of Montana has been doing it for years – there’s even a very detailed roadkill compost handbook (PDF) freely available from the Montana Department Of Transportation; which will be a great resource for the Tasmanian government if it decides to pursue the option.

Still, the composting of roadkill is only tackling the outcome of the problem; not the cause. As someone who has hit a couple of kangaroos during his time driving; I will never forget the look on these poor creature’s faces in their dying moments – total confusion. While this is anthropomorphising the experience; it’s almost as if they were communicating to me the concept of “what the hell did I do to you to deserve this?”.

Since getting rid of my previous choice of vehicle (mini-van) to something more suited to the conditions I usually drive in these days, I haven’t struck a single animal – roo or otherwise (touch wood). It’s a case of collateral damage prevention being better than any composting ‘cure’.