Who’s in Charge of Cleaning Up All the Roadkill in Southwest Michigan?
The winter snow has finally melted away meaning litter and roadkill are now "in bloom" across Southwest Michigan. Lovely.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing so many dead animals on the side of the road! As someone who commutes between Allegan and Kalamazoo daily, I can't help but notice these "landmarks" that line the road. Each day I can't help but wonder: is anybody going to come and clean up this unsightly mess?
As I'm sure you're already aware, deer are a constant threat to Michigan drivers year-round. According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts in 2021 there were 1,137 deer-related traffic incidents in Kalamazoo County alone! That's up 123 crashes from 2020.
So what happens when you hit a deer or other animal? One of several things may happen:
- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) removes it
- A private contractor is hired to remove it
- It just sits there to decompose
- Someone salvages it
What About the Michigan DNR?
Contrary to popular belief, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rarely gets involved with roadkill incidents. However, in an effort to track Chronic Wasting Disease among the deer population, the DNR has been known to remove the head of the deceased deer for testing, while still leaving the rest of the animal along the road to decompose.
The only other time the Michigan DNR is involved with roadkill is when a citizen obtains a salvage permit. Yes, if you would like to haul away a deer involved in a crash for your own possession you are allowed to do so, provided you fill out a roadkill salvage permit.
Roadkill Removal Programs
In the past, several county road commissions such as the Calhoun County Road Department had carcass removal programs but many were removed due to budget cuts-- no surprise there.
Private contractors like Rascal Removal Services in Richland have been hired by MDOT to remove roadkill along I-94 in the past, but only if the deer is lying in a traffic lane. If the deer is along the side of the road Calhoun County will not pay to have it removed.
A DNR conservation officer in Allegan County, Sgt. Carter Woodwyk told WMMT that,
Occasionally, the local road commission will remove carcasses on the sides of roads. But typically, they will be left to naturally decompose.
So, Who's in Charge After All?
Essentially: no one. Unfortunately, unless the roadkill is a danger to traffic or you want to pay out of your own pocket, that roadkill will be left to sit and decompose for as long as it takes nature to run its course.