Photo: a young raccoon scales a fig tree, August 2013
As an animal lover, it pains me to see furry or feathered victims of car collisions lying on the road. I do what I can to have the bodies removed as quickly as possible. Sometimes it involves a little intuition, which might be a powerful tool even to save lives.
Yesterday I saw a large raccoon lying on 16th Avenue, mostly on the sidewalk. I pulled over and got out my phone. Surrey’s bylaw department removes dead animals from city roads. They’re a safety issue, distracting and sometimes obstructing drivers. I usually note the location and call from my destination, but it was too close to closing time. I wanted it addressed the same day if possible.
The estimated wait time was garbled, so I sat in the car listening to tortuous repetitive music. Several times I questioned whether I should continue the call. After nearly twenty minutes, I recognized the voice of a woman I’d spoken to the last time I called about an animal on 72nd Avenue. I gave her the intersection as well as an address. After a long pause, I provided my name, address, and then postal code. Finally she told me that someone would be dispatched.
By now it was well after 4 p.m., too late for anyone to attend. Something had to be done. I retrieved a bag of newspapers from the trunk and went to the raccoon. Using a stick I found nearby, I was able to tidy some bits that had spread out into the gutter, and brought them together. I tried to cover the raccoon, but the newspapers were mostly flyers, and I couldn’t find anything to hold them in place.
A woman approached, who had jogged past the scene earlier. She had her phone in hand and was on hold with the city. When I told her I had already called, she hung up and thanked me. I thanked her too. It was lovely that I wasn’t the only one who cared. She helped find some stones to lay on top of the newspapers. We couldn’t find large stones, but she bunched some gravel into a knot of newspaper and placed it over the raccoon. We did what we could to loosely secure the paper covering.
When I returned to my vehicle, a nearby resident asked what was going on. I explained, and said that I doubted the newspaper would hold until the city attended. She said they had old towels they could use.
The light was fading as I finally set out on my journey. When I drove past an hour later, a towel had been gently placed over the raccoon.
It helps me in these situations to know that the animal doesn’t need its body anymore. But I think caring for the body shows respect for the beautiful living creature that was simply crossing a road, when someone drove too fast without paying attention and collided, probably without even stopping to see if the animal was okay.
Sometimes a struck animal can live for some time and might be saved. A cat rescuer friend talked about an experience like that. He saw a kitten at the side of an Abbotsford road one dark night. The kitten was alive but had suffered trauma from a collision. He found a vet, but unfortunately the kitten didn’t survive long. I’m glad the kitten’s last hours weren’t alone.
It was after hearing about that kitten that I began to prepare for a similar emergency. I kept a stack of newspapers and gloves in the car. I bought a reflective vest to be safer if I needed to go onto a road.
I put those tools to use on New Year’s Day in 2015. I was driving to my parents in Surrey, when I had a feeling that I should change my route. At first I didn’t pay attention to the intuition and made a turn off 152nd Street. But then I thought, what if this feeling was important? I turned down a side street and circled back.
Moments later, a block or two north of 82nd Avenue, I found a large dead raccoon in the right hand lane. It was not safe to have anything obstructing traffic there. The speed limit is 60 km/h (37 mph), and traffic often goes faster. As it was a holiday, there was no one I could call, and it was left to me. I was there for that reason.
I parked on a side street and walked back to the raccoon with my bag of newspapers and the reflective vest over my coat. As I walked toward the raccoon, I waved my arms to alert drivers to go around it. Just as I arrived, a large truck stopped right in front of the raccoon. The driver stoically waited until I finished my work, forming a helpful barrier between me and traffic.
While walking, I had found two broken pieces of panelling that were the perfect size. I used one to scoop the still-soft body, the other to act as a base as I moved it from the road to the boulevard. Then I used one piece to hold the newspapers in place that were draped over the raccoon.
When I arrived at my parents’ home and told them about my adventure, my father told me that he once had a strong intuition to change his route. He had planned to go to Vancouver for business, leaving his second wife, Margaret, at their Langley home. By the time he reached the Otter Co-op at Fraser Highway and 248th Street, he felt something pulling him back home.
When he returned, he found Margaret lying on the ground in the rain. She had broken her hip and had crawled toward the door, but couldn’t get back inside. “She would have died there in that cold rain,” he said. He called an ambulance and kept her as comfortable as he could until the paramedics arrived to take her to hospital. By listening to his intuition, he prevented a lot of suffering and may have saved Margaret’s life.
My father’s story seems like a much better one than mine, about finding a raccoon on the road. But maybe if we can help others, be they four-legged or two-legged, even dead or alive, when our heart is in it, we can make a difference. And I may well have helped some two-legged creatures that New Year’s Day from avoiding a collision on 152nd Street in Surrey.
- Irene Plett
Topics: Roadkill, raccoons, a kitten, intuition, Surrey, Langley, Peter Plett, Margaret Plett