Monday, June 15, 2009

Toronto's has the only skunk with two stripes!

Road-painting crew paints right over dead skunk in the middle of the road
Posted: June 15, 2009, by Rob Roberts
Loudon Wainwright sang it best in his 1972 hit: “Crossin’ the highway late last night. He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right.
He didn’t see the station wagon car. The skunk got squashed and there you are!” All together now:
“You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road.” (Click here for a video of this song on YouTube.)
We found this creature pictured here last Thursday, as I began the last day of my walk across Toronto with Melissa Bessey, a freelance journalist who asked to tag along. Not far east of Staines Road, Steeles Avenue East turns from a city street into a country highway, with the Rouge Park to the south and the farms of Markham to the north. This is the last great wilderness in the 416: paradise for wild animals. Except, of course, for the traffic.
The skunk lay on the shoulder, not just dead, but suffering the added ignomy of an utterly superfluous white stripe painted across its back. Don’t they know skunks already have a white stripe?
“The fellow running the [paint] gun just didn’t notice it as the gun was going overtop of it,” surmises Alan Pinkerton, manager of signs and markings for the City of Toronto. “Accidents happen. They’re painting thousands of kilometres every year.”
Guild Electric, under contract to the City of Toronto, painted the line the night before, he said.
Roberto Stopnicki, Mr. Pinkerton’s boss at Toronto’s Traffic Management Centre, notes that Toronto paints all its 5,300 kilometres of roads every year, with some busy roads needing paint twice a year. Crews can only paint in warm dry weather, so when the conditions are right, these guys are whipping past at up to 50 km/hour.
The driver trains a laser beam on a line ahead of him that he is following. The second person is manning one and often two spray guns: one to paint the shoulder line and the other to paint the centre line.
At that speed, “If there is a small animal, a black animal on black asphalt, it’s possible to miss it,” he says.
Our unfortunate mammal was not alone: last year Toronto Animal Services picked up 241 dead skunks from the mean streets of Toronto, which seems like a lot until you compare it to the 1,356 dead cats they gathered, along with a whopping 2,750 raccoons. Later on that day, we came across a very pregnant raccoon, also very dead in the road.
“We’re busier with that in the summertime, because there is a lot of wildlife out on the roads,” says Mary Lou Leiher, a supervisor with Animal Services. I gave her the co-ordinates of the skunk, and she promised to investigate. She invites anyone with a dead animal to call (416) 338-PAWS.
She notes: “It’s not a good idea to throw larger animals in the garbage.”
Photo by Melissa Bessey


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