Time to measure the cost | AspenTimes.com

Time to measure the cost

It is that time of year again, the deer and elk are moving from the high country, prodded out by the cold and the hunters to their summer habitat. Is it a blessing or a curse that my eyes are drawn to the black skid marks on the highway?

All too often just a large dark stain is all that visibly remains of the animal killed; other times a deer or elk carcass is visible just off the road where it died a slow and painful death. Sometimes the out-of-place silhouette or the movement of the magpies are the telltale sign there is an animal carcass nearby.

Road kill in our state seems sadly to have become an integral part of the landscape.

A recent article in The Denver Post was titled, “State’s highways a killing ground for black bear.” The article went on to say there have been 114 documented cases of black bear being killed on Colorado highways this year.

That is just since they emerged from their dens in March and April. Defenders of Wildlife magazine estimates that vehicles traveling our nation’s highways kill a million animals a year.

Late Saturday morning on the way to my office I watched as five deer spaced out over 100 yards or so crossed Highway 82 near Catherine’s Store. I pulled over and flashed my lights to warn others to slow down and I watched them, their tongues hanging out and their eyes wide with fear.

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They were way behind schedule to get where their instincts were carrying them. By this time of day they should have already been bedded down. Clearly on this day a pack of people, a new fence, a development, a road or perhaps a combination thereof had held them up.

On this day they were just doing their best to get where they were going alive. Luckily for them and me, on this day they somehow ran the gauntlet of the four-lane highway. These oversized vehicles barreling along at 60 to 75 mph, piloted by occupants oblivious to their surroundings, cell phones in one hand and the wheel in the other created a surreal setting. Somehow these deer all made it. Many others sadly will not.

Perhaps we have conveniently arranged our lives at the expense of too many animals and other living things. Perhaps it is time in the interest of saving the lives of animals (and humans) and reducing our dependence on foreign oil that we should be giving serious thought to again reducing the speed limit to 55 mph.

As John Denver so appropriately wrote and sang, “With the wild in their eyes, it is they who must die, and we who must measure the cost.” Blessing or curse you tell me.

Frosty Merriott

Carbondale