Everything You've Been Too Scared To Ask About What Happens To Roadkill

Do you ever wonder where roadkill goes? As a child, you may have imagined those prostrate animals on the highway were just sleeping, but now you know better. In fact, if you hit a deer or other small animal with your car as an adult, you likely realize you fatally doomed the poor creature or injured it for life.

There are people who properly deal with roadkill in a variety of ways, though. Some animal carcasses look as hauntingly beautiful in death as they did in life, and some deceased creatures even contribute to animal research.

These facts about roadkill will blow your mind and possibly make you a bit more careful on the road.


  • Car Collisions Harm More Animals Than Hunters Do

    Millions of animals die annually because of car collisions. In fact, vehicles are more deadly for animals than either hunters or animal-testing laboratories, and these fatalities widely impact the ecological system. To animals like caribou or Florida panthers, the threat from cars is even more serious than that of habitat loss. Already endangered creatures, such as bighorn sheep, red wolves, desert tortoises, and American crocodiles, face an even greater risk.

    Furthermore, vehicular damage from wildlife collisions costs about $3.6 billion a year. 

  • Some Dead Animals May Explode

    Much like humans, if dead animals don't receive proper care after passing, they experience bloating. In particular, gas can build up in the roadkill carcass and occasionally even make it explode.

    If and when the creature's skin splits, entrails and dark-colored blood may pour out. 

  • Some Animals Suffer For Long Periods Of Time

    Animals don't usually die immediately after being struck by a car. In fact, highway technicians often encounter animals still clinging to life. Those people typically enlist state troopers to put the animals out of their misery quickly.

  • People Who Remove The Remains Can Face Health Issues

    Road technicians encounter plenty of potential health risks and hazards when they interact with roadkill. For example, deceased animals often carry rabies, so disposing of them requires extra caution. Skunks' bad odor stick around posthumously. And transporting a bear from the roadside is physically exhausting.

    Moreover, the workers don't typically wear protective clothing.

  • Different States Handle Roadkill In Different Ways

    Though New York does nothing with roadkill, leaving dead animals out in the open, other states and municipalities have different ways of dealing with the decomposing problem. 

    For many, the answer is compost heaps. Dead animals are mixed in with leaves and other waste, eventually becoming fertile soil. Some soil goes to farmers, and some fertile is used for local landscaping projects, like parks or other green spaces. In Boston, dead animals are frozen in a walk-in freezer, and when the freezer fills up, "Final Journeys Animal Aftercare" comes to collect the carcasses and incinerate them. 

    The state of Indiana approves of "rendering" carcasses, a nice way of saying that the dead animal becomes another product. For example, Griffin Industries accepts chickens and turkeys, Darling Industries accepts cattle, hogs, and horses, and Standard Fertilizer will take anything. In other words, roadkill or dead farm animals can legally become glue, fertilizer, or something else.

  • Some States Allow Legal Consumption Of Animals Hit By Cars

    It's legal to eat roadkill in certain states like Georgia, Illinois, Colorado, and Indiana. In fact, state troopers in Montana tell food banks when a deer or other meaty animal expires on the highway.

    According to food safety experts, eating roadkill is safe as long as the animal didn't remain outside for too long. Food prep must also involve adequate cooking temperatures. Montana state representative Steve Lavin noted, "It's like any other meat - if you leave it outside the refrigerator for a couple of hours, you aren't going to want to eat it."