Road kill cleanup costly for taxpayers
                                     By ANDREA BYL
                                    Capital News Service

         LANSING — It’s dusk, it’s deer and it’s a collision. The result keeps Russ

Stoddard in business.

         November marks the busiest month for road kill cleanup, said the owner of

Michigan Highway Hazard Recovery, a private road-kill cleanup company based in


         Several counties have contracts with Stoddard to pick up deer carcasses and other

dead animals from their highways, including Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Allegan, St. Joseph,

Branch and Lapeer.

         Fall is especially busy because hunting season causes the deer to run, he said.

         “It peaks in November and gradually works its way down. There are days where

we get 100 deer or more,” Stoddard said.

         Oakland was one of the top five counties for deer-car collisions in 2005,

according to the Southeast Michigan Coalition of Governments (SEMCOG).

         Craig Bryson, the public information officer for the Oakland County Road

Commission, said it disposes of nearly 500 deer a year at a cost of about $60 per deer

through Stoddard’s company.

         Yet keeping roads clear of dead animals didn’t always occupy Stoddard’s time.

He recalled a trip to Florida when he noticed highways in other states were void of road

kill, unlike Michigan. So he wrote to former Gov. John Engler, who asked Stoddard to

pitch an idea to take care of the problem.
         “So I came up with a plan,” he said. “My plan was statewide. They said we’ll give

it a try.”

         A seven-year agreement was made and Michigan Highway Hazard Recovery was

established. The company’s two trucks each travel 600 miles a day to cover the

contracted areas.

         “You have to work hard,” he said. “I enjoy my job.”

         Clearing state roads falls to the responsibility of the Michigan Department of

Transportation. However, many counties have contracts with MDOT that transfer the

cleanup to the county level, said Bob Felt of the MDOT communications department.

         Felt said the requirement is to get the carcasses off the roadway, but county

policies vary on whether to pick the dead animals up or simply drag them off the road.

         Unlike counties that contract out for service, Kent County has its own cleanup.

         In 2005, it led the state in the number of deer-car crashes, with more than 2,000

reported, SEMCOG reported.

         “We have one person. That’s pretty much —not their entire job — but this time of

year he picks up between 10 and 30 deer a day,” said Jerry Eyrne, director of

maintenance for the Kent County Road Commission.

         The agency previously contracted out to a private company. But with the large

number of deer the county retrieves and brings to a landfill, it costs about the same to

have the county do the job, Eyrne said.

         Responsibility for disposing of dead animals is a long-running debate, Eyrne

said. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is in charge of wildlife, and so the

pick-up technically falls to that department, he said.
       But the county ends up taking care of it, something Eyrne said he’d like to


       “We probably spend $50,000 a year picking them up, and we could use that filling

potholes,” he said.

       Ann Wilson, press secretary for the DNR, disagreed that her agency is


       “We have no jurisdiction over the properties those deer are on,” Wilson said,

adding that if drivers pull the carcasses as far off the road as soon as they hit them, more

than just pick-up problems would be solved, such as road hazards and animal safety.

       Dead deer can cause drivers to swerve, potentially leading to an accident, she

said, as well as endangering wildlife.

       “Deer carcasses draw meat eaters — coyotes, foxes. Deer carcasses on the

roadway endanger the life of animals who have naturally come to the road to feed on the

carcass,” Wilson said, adding that eagles are at a particular risk.

       Deputy Dale Dekorte of Kent County Sheriff’s Department said with thousands of

deer being killed on the roads each year, drivers involved in a car-deer collision have the

option of taking the carcass for venison but need a free permit.

       The driver has first claim to the deer, but anyone else can take it thereafter,

Dekorte said.

       “It happens quite frequently,” he said. “There are some individuals in the county

who obtain a number of the deer a year. They will give the meat away to friends and

family or people in need.”
       Because meat given to food kitchens has to be U.S. Department of Agriculture

certified, road kills are rarely donated to charitable organizations, but they can be given to

feed people on a friend-to-friend basis, Dekorte said.


To top