Composting roadkill an act of revenge

July 08, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

Never can I recall a news cycle where the headlines have been so dedicated to the subject of road kill. At least not since the West Virginia legislature legalized the consumption of it.

Remember when we laughed at that one? Well, look who's laughing now. West Virginia's grill2grill approach to flattened woodchucks might have seemed unappealing at the time, but give the state credit for dealing with a problem before it became a crisis.

Which it has in Maryland, where critter corpses are piling up along the roadside faster than at Bloody Lane. According to stories in the Cumberland Times and Washington Post, road crews used to bury the carcasses by the side of the road, but due to the sheer volume of the highway slaughter, this is no longer feasible.

So the state has two answers: Burning and turning. In Cumberland, plans are to install an incinerator to cremate the remains, while in Frederick, a recipe of wood chips, manure and deer are turned over and over again until they decay into compost. Nice. So now if a highway worker tells you he kneads the doe, you can't automatically assume he's short on cash.


In these days of earth awareness and recycling, I was naturally thinking that the composting was the better option. But that was before I learned the name of the incinerator that's going to be fired up in Cumberland.

The following is from an article by Kevin Spradlin in the Times-News:

"The Dispose All Model 7 Brute incinerator is equipped with a propane-fired afterburner as an emission-control device and will be operated using heating oil from a nearby 500-gallon, above-ground storage tank."

Whoa momma! A Dispose All Model 7 Brute incinerator with propane fired afterburners? Take that, Bambi. Let's put that puppy up against Washington County's Lenco Bearcat Anti-Terrorist Armored Vehicle and have a BattleBots for the ages.

Suddenly, the idea of compost loses all its zap.

The highway department swears it's only to be used for roadkill, but boys will be boys, and with that kind of firepower at my disposal I know I couldn't be trusted not to throw in a dishwasher or something just to see what happened.

Plus, incineration can't take more than a minute or two, while composting takes six to eight months, after which "the deer are reduced to large bones such as skulls and hips ... The big bones are sifted out, for aesthetic reasons, before the compost is applied" to roadway flower beds," the Post says.

Personally, I'd leave the skulls in. It might be a warning to other deer.

And there's one other reason that, to me, gives composting the final edge: Revenge.

I think of all the plants of mine that deer have lunched on over the years, and I love the idea of the deer feeding the flowers instead of the other way around. Kind of cosmic justice, no? And these are just Maryland deer. If they would compost dead deer along the Pennsylvania highways, it could put Miracle-Gro out of business.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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