Friday, September 29, 2017

Wild driving

Abbie Wisdom-Williams and her pet skunk.
I am Abbie Wisdom-Williams, a KDOT employee since February 2017 and a wildlife advocate and rehabilitator for almost 20 years. As most animal protectors go, we could probably be classified as clinically insane as to the lengths we go to ensure the safety of critters, both domestic and wild. A friend of mine was killed while trying to rescue a possum from a railroad track (not joking).
I was born with an overly developed sense of self-preservation so I try to be hyper aware of my surroundings when trying to rescue an animal. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to see everything. A very dear friend and fellow rescuer had a very close call this summer. We had a call of three baby raccoons in a ditch after a heavy rain. I was too far away so Jana drove out to pick them up. It was dark so she put on her flashers and started searching.  All three were found safe and sound and placed in a carrier.  Jana put the carrier in the back seat of her car, started around to the driver’s side when a car hydroplaned, slamming into the rear of her SUV. Jana was too focused on the condition of the raccoons and didn’t see or hear the vehicle. She was lucky, and the raccoons survived although they had to be cut out of the back of the car.
I don’t proclaim myself an expert (I’ve probably done some really stupid things), but I thought I might offer some tips as to sharing the roadways with the fuzzy, scaly and slimy things. 
Above all else, use common sense!  Don’t assume someone will see you picking up that turtle. Is there a chance you might chase that puppy into traffic instead of away from it?  Will that injured raccoon bite? If you don’t think you can help without the possibility of someone getting hurt, don’t do it. Call for backup, have someone watch traffic for you or call a professional (believe it or not, 911 is an option). Remember that an injured animal can be panicked, in pain and will lash out because he probably doesn’t know you are trying to help unless you are Dr. Dolittle.
Do you know why you see more dead armadillos than live ones?  It’s because they jump straight up when startled. A great tip to make wildlife aware that you are there is to randomly change the brightness of your headlights. A deer can see the lights but has no comprehension of the fact that they are attached to a proverbial brick wall. Changing the brightness draws their attention and can save their life, your car and maybe your life as well. Of course, follow the rules of the road when changing the brightness of your headlights, and dim appropriately when facing oncoming traffic.
Lastly, get to know the animals that live around you, their behavior, their habits, the environment as they see it. Understanding them may mean they will be less of a target for you.

Abbie Wisdom-Williams is a Senior Administrative Assistant for KDOT in Hutchinson  


  1. Nearly 100% of the time the wildlife should be left alone. Don't assume it needs to be rescued just because you do not see a mommy/daddy.

  2. Wow, that's really good advice. I so appreciate those who get involved and help animals. And that in turn helps keep motorists safe - a win/win. Thank you for sharing.