Yesterday’s snowfall has left a couple of inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground. Even though, with the temperature hovering around 0 C, snow is melting off the roof and splashing on these rocks near the door, we’re not likely to be seeing any snowdrops like those featured by Huckleberry, over at Huckleberry Days, any time soon.
When out driving yesterday morning, I did see one sure sign of spring on the roads: a dead raccoon. All winter long, raccoons spend most of their time holed away out of the weather, waiting for spring. When the warmer weather arrives, raccoons start searching for food and that’s when the annual raccoon catastrophe begins. Many end up under the wheels of a racing automobile. Opossums and other small animals also are at risk, but around southern Ontario, raccoons seem to be particularly susceptible. There is even a joke about it: Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the raccoon that it can be done.
Having raised several raccoon kits, I can attest to the fact that raccoons are very bright. But thousands of years of evolution has left them poorly equipped to deal with rushing steel monsters. Unlike animals such as rabbits, who use their lightening speed to save their lives, raccoons climb trees or, as fierce fighters, take a stand. These tactics don’t work well with cars.
The real problem isn’t the raccoons. It’s the roads. There are so many of them! They go everywhere. In southern Ontario, the network of roads has burgeoned since the car became king. The imperilment of raccoon lives is just one small cost of roads. Fragmentation, habitat destruction, and contribution to global warming are others. The Wildlands League has produced a publication that looks at the true costs associated with roads. It is titled Roads: More than Lines on a Map.
When it comes to paving over paradise, there is no end in sight. With city infrastructures crumbling, the limits to urban sprawl gaining recognition, and the need for improved public transit drawing attention, you’d think governments would have better things to do with our money, but we don’t seem to have turned that corner yet. One good example is the proposed Mid-escarpment Highway, an anachronistic plan left over from another era.