Roadkill detail a nasty job; someone has to do it

Saturday, January 19, 2002

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- The sight of roadkill is not uncommon. Driving along Illinois 159, there may be a dead fox north of Interstate 64, a dead dog farther south.

As the road becomes more rural, south of Belleville, there may be the occasional deer, skunk or bird that did not dodge a car quickly enough. So if pet owners don't come to claim their furry friends, and the deer is not hoisted off for fresh venison, who cleans up the mess?

"It's nobody's favorite job," said Jim Wiegard, of Cahokia, speaking on behalf of his fellow workers with the Illinois Department of Transportation. "In the winter it's not so bad, but in the summer, sometimes they swell up, and liquid oozes out of them when we try to pick them up."

On state roads, IDOT's highway maintainers remove snow, mow lawns, patch potholes and remove litter and dead animals, one of the more unsavory aspects of their job.

The crews take turns picking up the roadkill, which they call a "10-45." Each week, they do at least one road run for a dead animal pickup.

In rural areas, the pickup may depend more on mating seasons. In urban areas, the animals are usually dogs or cats.

Buried on site if possible

IDOT's policy is generally to bury the animal on the ground where it is found if the location is state-owned and not in front of a residence or business. Using shovels, the highway maintainers will push an animal to the side of the road, dig a hole and bury it. In the winter, when the ground is frozen, the work crews truck the carcasses to a site far away from businesses, residences and underground utilities, where they will use a backhoe to dig a grave.

Near the IDOT shed in East St. Louis is what Wiegard and his co-workers call the "pet cemetery." Last week, the pet cemetery had a pile of carcasses of eight dogs and one cat awaiting burial.

Asked how many dead animals he has picked up in his 2 1/2 years as a highway maintainer, Wiegard said, "I can't give an honest estimate. I guess you try to forget it."

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