March 19, 2014 —
A couple of weeks back, I took a trip up and down the river, and up and around Lackawaxen and Shohola townships. There was lots of wildlife present on the river and above. What was more significant was the wildlife tally observed on the roadway on this trip of 30 or so miles. The critter road tally was nine turkey, seven deer (four different locations), a couple of crows feeding on road kill, and one opossum calmly walking along the shoulder.
Due to our colder and snowier late winter, there are a few reasons wildlife seem more noticeable near roadways as winter nears its end. Deer and other wildlife had to forage through deep snow this winter, and when late winter thaws arrive, it’s the road shoulders that get more exposed first, revealing previously hidden menu items to any herbivore. In addition, accumulated road salt may attract some animals, and gravel and grit is utilized by turkey and other birds for their digestion process. Roads, being plowed throughout the winter, offer easy foot travel for wildlife. Less traveled secondary roads offer some good opportunities for wildlife viewing this time of year.
If an animal is struck and killed by a vehicle, that animal may attract other opportunistic foragers. Turkey vultures have arrived here just before March, and will feed on road-killed animals. Bald eagles are not above feeding on freshly killed carcasses by the road. Raptors like eagles need a little clear horizontal distance to get airborne if flushed, and the roadway frequently becomes their runway if they are on the ground. Bear have started to emerge and may forage on road killed animals when they are not chewing on your bird feeder or attacking your trash cans.
Be cautious when driving on the roads, for there are a lot of hungry critters as this winter ends. As spring arrives, many animals are trying to fuel up for the upcoming breeding season. Be safe and take a little more time to get to your destination; you may get some great wildlife viewing opportunities.