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June 26, 2008

That's not roadkill, it's research!

Posted: 01:02 PM ET

A few weeks ago, I saw what I thought was a familiar sight 'round these parts: A possum, with its long tail and newly flattened carcass, by the side of the road. As I passed by, I noticed that the "possum" had big ears and was wearing a suit of armor.An Armadillo\'s last stand, Georgia Highway 212, near Atlanta

It was Armadillo roadkill, in an area where armadilloes aren't supposed to live (DeKalb County, just east of Atlanta). The third one I've seen in recent years. Its U.S. habitat was once confined to Texas, but the nine-banded armadillo has been marching its curious little self northward, slowed only by cold weather and the occasional set of steel-belted radials. Since armadillos are shy, solitary, and mostly nocturnal, they can move into an area with little chance of detection - except by their frequent appearance as roadkill.

But my anecdotal research doesn't hold a candle to Dr. Splatt (real name, Brewster Bartlett). A middle school science teacher in New Hampshire, Dr. Splatt's Roadkill Monitoring Project collects data from a network of schoolkids, who email regular reports of flattened fauna. We did a story on Dr. Splatt several years ago; I checked in with him recently, and he said the project is alive and well, though they're in the midst of some computer switch overs and haven't updated their website recently. He's got data, through 2007, in spreadsheet form that chronicles the demise of hundreds of possums, raccoons, birds, skunks, frogs, and more rarely, coyotes, porcupines, and moose. (Note that moose road-kill is a two-way street: hit an 800-pound animal whose center of gravity is four feet off the ground, and there's a good chance the moose will come through the windshield and kill you right back).

And deer are even more deadly. In recent years, about 140 people are killed annually in the U.S. in car-deer collisions, with a billion-plus price tag in collision insurance claims. The frequent sight of deer by the side of the road - whether feeding or decomposing - isn't a coincidence. Wildlife biologists say that deer gravitate toward "edge habitat" - the area where open space meets the forest. That's a pretty good description of most rural roadsides.

Peter Dykstra, Executive Producer, CNN Science, Tech & Weather

Filed under: Animals

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Larian LeQuella   June 26th, 2008 1:38 pm ET

A friend of mine has a small traveling petting zoo she uses to teach children about different types of animals that they may run into. One of them is Amanda the Armadillo. She caused quite the stir when she went to Texas. Seems no one there had seen a LIVE armadillo!

Why am I reminded of the Road Kill Cafe menu?

S Callahan   June 26th, 2008 5:43 pm ET cat....Thumper on the bumper....Chunck of
L. LeQuella where ever did you find that! lolololol

When i think of roadkill..i think of the Taconic...ewh!

Franko   June 27th, 2008 3:14 am ET

I once had Road Kill Moose Soup,
Help yourself, from a pot, large enough to hold the bones.

When a deer hit my car, instant steam bath from the radiator.
And some hungry person. quickly removed the dead traffic violator.

Gulaman   June 29th, 2008 11:42 pm ET

Yesterday...when we were on our way to Biloxi, MS from the remote Wiggins town a little north of Biloxi/Gulfport...I saw a an armadillo roadkill and immediately identified it by its leathery/shi8ny armor. But it hit me suddenly if it does exist in MS. I wasn't so sure until I saw this familiar picture you posted above. Too bad I did not know we were suppsoed to send some pictures..i would have done it.

Tim   July 5th, 2008 11:44 am ET

Granny, of The Beverly Hillbillies, would be proud.

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