Where does roadkill go in the Gatineau Hills?

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by admin on July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009 – When Low Down to Hull and Back reader c. j. fleury of Wakefield, Quebec was driving along Hwy 366 East one day, a deer darted out of the woods and just missed her car. She didn’t even have the chance to utter a “phew!” As she was still swerving out of the way, a second deer came out of nowhere and “committed suicide” on her fender. At least, she thought the deer was dead.

It turned out the animal was injured but was able to make it back into the forest.

While fleury’s encounter makes for a great story, hitting animals with cars has become a common occurrence for Canadians who live outside of the country’s big urban centres. Roadkill is as synonymous with our highways as gas stations or Tim Horton’s. These roadside victims, both large and small, are so common that most of us don’t really give them a second thought.

Jonathan Monette, however, gives a lot of thought to roadkill. Monette is an animal control officer with the Outaouais SPCA. His job is to handle incidents that involve animals and relate to local municipal bylaws. One time, that involved chasing an escaped llama around a farm for 15 minutes. A few times a week, it is guaranteed to involve picking up roadkill from the side of the road.

While Quebec’s Ministry of Transportation takes care of small dead animals on our roads’ shoulders, like raccoons or skunks, it does not have the means to handle a larger animal like a deer or a bear. That’s where Monette and his team come in. When the highway patrol spots a larger animal they call the SPCA.

Monette said handling dead deer is part of the usual routine. An adult deer can weigh as much as 250 pounds. One or two animal control officers will wedge the deer into a truck and take it back to the SPCA.

Monette said he prefers to handle the deer in the winter because the cold cuts off the smell. “Some people can’t stand it,” he said. “If you wait two days during the summer you will have a lot of little worms [on the deer] so it’s better during the winter,” he added.

Monette said he once had to pick up five deer in one day. In comparison, the Outaouais SPCA has only had to handle two dead moose in the past two years.

It is important that anyone who hits a deer reports it to the Ministry of Transportation or the police. If not reported the person who hit the deer can face a $200 fine and lose nine demerit points because it is treated as a hit and run.

But what happens to all those dead animals? Where does the roadkill go?

Monette says the animals he picks up end up in an incinerator at the back of the SPCA building in Gatineau.

In some cases, roadkill can have another life after death. A lot of Aboriginal art uses the quills from dead porcupines, for example, in jewellery.

Nathalie Coutou is the owner of Khewa, a store in Wakefield that sells Aboriginal art. She accepted roadkill from customers in the past but does not anymore. Now she directs them directly to the artists who use the animals in their work.

Coutou said the local Aboriginal artists who use parts from dead animals all approach William Commanda, an Algonquin elder, for permission to use the animal. Because First Nations people see animals as being sacred, it is important for an elder to approve any use of the animal after its death.

If art isn’t your thing how about using roadkill for Christmas dinner?

In a Valley Voice Op-ed piece a year and a half ago, Christine Anderson wrote about how her sister prepared a deer that had been freshly killed by a car for her family’s Christmas dinner that year. That Masham roadkill turned out to be the best venison she had ever had, and fit in nicely to the 100 Mile Dinner theme of that year’s feast.  She admitted that what they had done was probably not legal, because professionals should dispose a deer on the side of the road.

As Monette said, “You’ve just got to be made for this kind of stuff.”