Hot summer roads, in addition to cars,
may injure or kill some wildlife
Words & Photos by Mark Renz
Although there are documented studies in Florida that give us some idea how much wildlife is killed by cars, I doubt there have been studies estimating how many animals are killed or injured by hot roads at the peak of summer. This afternoon, (August 15, 2012), the temperature was just over 95 degrees, with a "feels-like" air temp of 105. I can't imagine how hot the pavement was on all of Florida's asphalt state-wide.
Driving on a back-country road near Lehigh Acres, I noticed movement on the pavement way in front of me. As I got closer to the motion, I saw it was a snake, whipping around in the road like it was being attacked. Mine was the only car in either direction, so I stopped and hopped out. At first, I wasn't sure what was going on and took a couple of photos while trying to assess the situation. Had it been hit by a car? Attacked and dropped by a hawk or some other animal?
Because I was barefoot, I quickly realized the problem. My friend, the red rat snake, was reacting to extreme heat on the pavement and writhing in pain. Perhaps its only mistake was the time of day it picked to cross the road.
I gently grabbed the snake near the back of it's head and set it in the grass. It seemed sluggish, as if it was nearly worn out. I set it underneath some brush in a shady spot and watched as it slowy seemed to come around and slithered off.
The snake wasn't alone. Near it was a peacock butterfly that was also alive, but moving it's feet like it was being cooked alive. I couldn't understand why it didn't just fly off. Perhaps it had fallen off the front of my truck after being hit and had only been stunned. When I scooped it up and tossed it into the air, off it flew!
On another day and another summer, I came across this lizard -- albeit late. It looks as if he too, may have been a victim of hot pavement...dying and drying out while still trying to get away from the intense heat.
I wonder too, if our roads are being constructed with material that is not only impervious to extreme heat, but cools quickly in the mid-day sun. The benefit would not just be to help wildlife but also to help cool the planet.