Halloween colors

I’ll start with a jack o’ lantern designed by Iliana. It’s a cat. I think the dead flowers around it makes for a pretty picture.

So we went on a drive to Wisconsin. On the Minnesota side, we’re clearly past the fall color peak, with mostly brown and barren trees, but the Wisconsin side…wow. Bright reds and yellows everywhere. If you want to see the autumn colors, now is the time to make the Sunday drive over there.

However, those aren’t the colors I’m talking about here. There’s a different stark difference between the two states: Minnesota was boring, empty highways along the route, but once you cross the state line, it’s animal carcasses everywhere. Every few miles there was a huge splash of rusty red splattered across multiple lanes, and then ten or twenty meters further on there’s be a horribly mangled dead deer, skin peeled off by the tumble, split in half with beige guts drooling out and drying on the shoulder, lying in an urecognizable pose. Ick.

Drive on further, there’s another bloody brown corpse lying in a heap.

A couple of miles on, fragments, shattered limbs, a head lying on the road with it’s tongue hanging out and drying.

It was very Halloween. The evidence of violence was horrific. These animals weren’t just knocked down, they were smashed and splattered. The cars had to have been totaled by the collision, too.

The difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin was stark, and had me wondering what was the cause.

Are there just more deer wandering alongside the highways in Wisconsin?

Are Wisconsinites simply far worse drivers?

Then I started thinking that maybe it’s a difference in highway management.

In Wisconsin, the highway patrol comes across yet another collision with a deer. They call for an ambulance for the dazed driver, a tow truck to drag the wreckage away, and then the cop takes a pair of meathooks out of his trunk, and drags the broken corpse out of the right-of-way and leaves it to rot on the highway shoulder.

In Minnesota, the highway patrolman calls the dispatcher.

“Hey, Madge, it’s a bad one. I got a guy staggering around, I don’t know whether his head is always shaped like a lumpy potato, or if he got banged up bad in the crash, so better get an ambulance out here just in case. Call Ole’s Towing and let him know there’s a crumpled Dodge Ram out here that he can scrap.”

“Oh yeah, also call the Cleaner and get the Meat Wagon here pronto before it goes bad. Nice little 8 point buck here, it’s a real shame. Tell him it’s a powerwashing job.”

“How about them Vikings, hey? Did you and Bob watch the game…[conversation continues for 20 minutes before he signs out]”

Anyway, we have lots of deer and bad drivers on this side of the border, so I imagine the difference has got to be in our diligence in doing road clean up. In Wisconsin, they seem to leave the blood and guts out as Halloween decorations.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Roadkill where I live in Florida tends to be raccoons, opossums, an occasional armadillo or tortoise, and a rare hog. Hogs must be brutal on a car’s front end. We have deer and rarely I have seen them standing on the roadside. I don’t see them as roadkill ever in my part of Florida. A few months ago I was treated to the sight of around 10 vultures taking turns with a fresh raccoon carcass down my street. Cause of death unknown. When I noticed several vultures standing in the road I was like “This is not going to be a pleasant scene coming up.”

    Vultures are nature’s carcass disposal crew. For that I salute them.

    I imagine deer to be larger in the Midwest than Florida due to Bergmann’s rule. Key deer are like dogs with antlers though due to island or insular effects? The term used for this alleged effect is off-putting. Maybe not a case of Bergmann’s rule?

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Last weekend I went to Madison for an annual game convention I usually attend. I always drive I94 from Milwaukee and this time of year that stretch of freeway always looks like someone dragged a butcher shop along the pavement. This year, not so much.

  3. bsr0 says

    PZ, how does your offspring enjoy living in Eau Claire? I’m looking for a spot in Wisconsin or Michiganto retire and Eau Claire seems like a nice town. Madison is high on my list, but it’s not cheap, and Eau Claire seems a bit more reasonable.

  4. cartomancer says

    Speaking of prompt cleanup of rotten messes on the side of the road… perhaps a little proprietorial attention needs paying to the “Learn to love your spiders” thread soon.

  5. Artor says

    I think some counties in Oregon collect road kill and send it to food banks to be dressed out and served to the needy. But we have a lot of vultures and other raptors out here, and they are usually pretty busy along any given highway.

  6. John Morales says

    Um, they’re not just decorations.

    And not all die right away — many linger in their maimed, broken state for up to hours before they perish from their injuries.

  7. Silentbob says

    @ 8 Morales

    Thanks yet again for your insight fuckwit. The rest of us hadn’t twigged there might be anything unpleasant about being struck by a vehicle at high speed. What would we do without you to help us out?
    (Hint: We’re all anxious to find out.)

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Silentbob @11:

    We’re all anxious to find out

    Who is this “we all” you write of? You and your family? You and your mates down the pub?

    Dunno about “all”, but I am among those who wish you’d work a bit harder at living up to your ‘nym.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    Up in northern Sweden “roadkill” includes the very big moose bulls you get up north. This is the reason the Volvos are built with a very strong “cage” around the passenger copartment.
    One question I ask myself when I see your Texas-sized pumpkins is “how does the plant pump all the nutritients through that tiny stem to build those monster growths?”

    -Also, I suspect pumpkins have an indifferent taste, or you would grow those biggies as a food staple.
    Along the Swedish coast, roadkill and offal is offered to raptors, especially the big sea eagles. They are scavengers and back off until the smaller ‘king eagles’ have eaten their fill.
    -BTW are there no coyotes in your state that can help with disposal of bigger roadkill? Mebbe you should introduce black bears, they are relatively harmless. Don’t introduce wolverines, they are crazy.
    Ravens are usually solitary but cooperate during winter. They are vastly more clever than vultures and buzzards.

  10. says

    Wisconsin, sounds like Ohio, just decided not to spend the money. I used to live in one relatively small town and work in another 25 miles away. In the fall I would amuse [?] myself by counting deer carcasses on the side of the road. The most I was ever able to count was 12.

  11. Robbo says

    @13 birgerjohansson

    I am in Minneapolis MN. We do have coyotes in many suburbs now, even within a few miles of downtown Minneapolis. I have seen them running down the street in front of my house. Bald Eagles have made a big comeback too. I have never seen either species dining on roadkill, except once up on the north shore of lake superior: a wolf and an eagle were sharing a dead deer.

    We also have plenty of black bears up north. Occasionally one will end up in the northern suburbs, but that is infrequent.

  12. StevoR says

    Here in South Australia, Australia generally, we get kangaroos ae frequent road kill victims and wedge tail eagles ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge-tailed_eagle ) as our “vulture”equivalents.

    There’s also the issue of our native marsupials carrying young in pouches so we have people are advised to check the puches of animals to rescue to “pinkuies”and joeys and that can survive as orphans following the deaths of their mothers to cars. As noted here :

    It is estimated that up to half a million native animals are killed by cars each year in Tasmania, making Tasmanian roads deadlier for wildlife, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.

    Vehicles do not discriminate between species, so all wildlife are at risk.

    According to our friends at Roadkill Tasmania, 50% of roadkill happens where vehicles travel over 80 km/hr. The vast majority of animals are hit between dusk and dawn – we ask everyone to please slow down at night. If you drive below 80 km/hr you will be half as likely to hit an animal. Plus it’s safer for you and yours.


    Tasmania is home to many species of marsupial (including possums, wombats, and Tassie devils) who keep their joeys safe inside a pouch. When marsupials are killed by cars, these joeys are often uninjured and able to be hand raised to adulthood.

    If drivers find a marsupial on the road, the pouch should be checked for joeys. If a joey is found, the 24-hour Bonorong Wildlife Rescue Service can be called on …(snip).. for advice.


    Scavengers such as Tasmanian devils are attracted to the roads by the availability of food. To prevent these animals from being hit by cars themselves, road kill should be moved several metres off the road. This should only be done if it is safe to do so! You can’t help if you are the one in danger.

    Source : https://www.bonorong.com.au/what-can-i-do

    For a number of endangered species roadkillis literally driving – running them over into – extinction. See : https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/roadkill-literally-drives-some-species-to-extinction/

  13. hemidactylus says

    StevoR @17
    I bemoan the running over of endangered species, but to take an indirect swipe to someone above hogs are far from endangered and are dangerous to car drivers and especially motorcyclists. Hunting could reduce deer populations to a point that car crunches are less common. I feel more for deer than hogs. Hog hunters have one job to do and failed. Same with python hunters in South Florida though they damage far fewer cars I assume. I have strong feelings.

    Hogs were introduced by Europeans into the US and are now politically incorrectly referred to as invasive species. Europeans were invasive too yes. The person I am ribbing might be familiar with rabbits down under, though they are cuter and smaller critters than hogs. Hogs are more intelligent than rabbits. But still a hot mess…especially strewn across a roadside.

  14. StevoR says

    @ ^ hemidactylus : Yeah, rabbits are a very serious and really destructive introduced pest here in Oz

    uch wild rabbit populations are a serious mammalian pest and invasive species in Australia causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops. Their spread may have been enhanced through the emergence of strong crossbreeds.

    Various methods in the 20th century have been attempted to control the Australian rabbit population. Conventional methods include shooting rabbits and destroying their warrens, but these had only limited success. From 1901 to 1907, a rabbit-proof fence was built in Western Australia in an unsuccessful attempt to contain the rabbits.[2][3] The myxoma virus, which causes myxomatosis, was introduced into the rabbit population in the 1950s and had the effect of severely reducing the rabbit population. However, the survivors have since adapted and partially recovered their previous numbers. Domesticated rabbits are banned as pets in the state of Queensland.


    Since their introduction from Europe in the 19th century, the effect of rabbits on the ecology of Australia has been devastating. They are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia.[15] Rabbits are believed to have had an immense impact on the abundance of natural resource availability, primarily concerning overgrazing. The rabbits would first deplete the natural pasture vegetation, and would then resort to consuming woody vegetation, which included small shrubs, and the leaves and bark of trees.[15] The extent of plant species’ loss is unknown at this time, though rabbits are known to often kill young trees in orchards, forests, and on properties by ringbarking them.[14]

    Rabbits are also responsible for serious erosion problems, as they eat native plants, leaving the topsoil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully, and wind erosion. The removal of this topsoil is devastating to the land, as it takes many hundreds of years to regenerate.

    Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits_in_Australia

    This is , of course, the metaphorical scratching of the surface when it comes to the problems caused.

    In the local Belair National Park we have or have had issues with them, deer, goats, foxes, and cats. Elsewhere, further north in the desert & semi-arid areas especially camels are causing huge ecological and cultural damage by destroying Indigenous sites – rubbing themselves on rock art etc..

    Retuning to the roadkill issue, our rnagers quite often have to euthanaise injured kanagoos hit by cars locally and I’ve personally seen koalas stop traffic and aided their movement off nearby roads. Even on occassion in the suburban Adelaide plains area below the foothills and main koala habitat.

    The hogs thing has me baffled tho’- don’t recall mentioning them and not an issue for me here although feral pigs too cause issues invasive species~wise in Oz..

  15. brightmoon says

    Ended up on a hog slaughter on YouTube . I was so shocked I watched the whole thing . I’m usually squeamish about stuff like that .

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