More than 54,000 deer-vehicle collisions occurred in Virginia from 2007 through 2008, the fifth highest number of all U.S. states, and the number of these incidents is increasing each year. Removing animal carcasses from the road and properly disposing of them is an essential service on Virginia roadways, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) spent $4.4 million on carcass removal and disposal work in 2008. Given the magnitude of animal-vehicle collisions in Virginia, some of the carcass disposal methods available to many VDOT maintenance areas are becoming increasingly impractical. On-site burial is becoming a less viable option for many maintenance areas as rural areas become more populated and concern for environmental quality increases. Yet driving the sometimes considerable distances to reach the nearest disposal facility is greatly inefficient in terms of time and labor. Because of such limitations that can increase costs to VDOT, many maintenance areas have an urgent need for viable and cost-effective alternative carcass management strategies.
The purpose of this study was to investigate and recommend cost-efficient options that address the growing problem of carcass disposal. Carcass management methods investigated included on-site burial, disposal facilities, contracts for removal and disposal, incineration units, and composting. The results of a survey of VDOT maintenance area staff indicated that 77% use a disposal facility such as a landfill and nearly 50% of disposal facility users travel away from a routine maintenance route to access the facility.
Cost models were developed to allow maintenance managers to evaluate costs incurred for various carcass management methods, and a decision tool was developed to guide the selection of the most suitable method. Implementing carcass management at VDOT maintenance areas may be a very effective approach for increasing labor efficiency. Compost windrows, or static-pile composting, is recommended as an easily managed technique that can be performed at the maintenance area. If only the portion of area headquarters that frequently use disposal facilities for carcass disposal were to replace this method with compost windrows, it is estimated that $515,440 per year could be avoided or reallocated within the maintenance areas. When space for compost windrows is unavailable, an automatic compost vessel can also be a practical option.