roadkillRegular readers of The Northern Myth will know that I have a fascination with dead things on the side of the road and I was pleasantly surprised to find this handy little field guide in the Red Kangaroo bookshop in Alice Springs a few weeks ago.

Fittingly the dead marsupial on the cover is a…you’ve got it, a Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus.

Roadkill is a modest book by Len Zell, an Honorary Associate of the School of Environmental Sciences and Resource Management at the University of New England. Roadkill runs to 102 pages but is packed with interesting stuff – particularly for the newbie roadkiller.

Dealing with dead animals always contains a degree of risk, and I love Zell’s disclaimer at the front of Roadkill. Zell says that he:

…accepts no responsibility for any loss, inconvenience, injury, or feeling of angst, disgust or nausea sustained by any person using this book. All recipes are tongue-in-cheek and anyone considering using them should only use meat obtained from safe sources, as roadkill is likely to be infested with parasites and other not-so-clean aspects.

Okay, it seems that Len Zell has found that rarest of creatures – a lawyer who can write a funny legal disclaimer!

But more seriously, this little book is packed with all sorts of useful (and some irreverent and funny) suggestions.

These include a definition and scope of the roadkill problem, how to avoid killing things as much as possible and, perhaps most importantly, and wise advice about what to do with roadkill and being aware of the worst case scenarios:

If an animal comes clean through the windscreen, e.g. a kangaroo, they can kill you or your passenger should you be going fast enough. Once inside the car the frightened animal may be still able to try to get out and in the process destroy or damage the occupants or a car’s interior. There is very little you can do in this circumstance other than stopping the car, opening the doors and hoping.

To swerve or not to swerve – the answer is simple: DO NOT SWERVE unless you are going slowly enough to be able to maintain complete control of the car.

…If you see or hit an animal on the road, ensure that it is dead before moving on.

All good advice. The rest of the book is a sort of taxonomy of roadkill – the ‘spineless’, the ‘wet and dry’, the ‘scaly’, the ‘big flying feathered’, the ‘hairy warm’ and the ‘feral’ roadkill. Then follows a useful list of contacts and websites, a Bibliography and, what is a sad rarity in too much of Australian non-fiction, an index for handy cross referencing.

If you work in animal rehabilitation, spend long hours behind the wheel driving across the wide open roads of this wonderful country or are just interested in roadkill I can highly recommend this book for your bookshelf or glovebox.

Roadkill will come in handy when next you run into a Black Kite as it lifts, engorged with rotting flesh and on struggling wings, off a carcass on the roadside – or when you run into a wombat, a snake, a horse…you get the drift.

You should be able to find the book at most good booksellers – but please take the time to buy it, and all of your books, from an independent bookstore.

Or you can try the publisher, Wild Discovery Guides here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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