Travelers had tossed a few tires, a bottle and two plastic bags into the median woods, but the woods were relatively free of human signs.
But Van-Riper says he wonders about the species called humans.
"We can do some astounding things, but we also do stupid things.
"Animals and plants don't use up all the raw materials. They conserve some. We don't. The throw-away world. There's always more down the road. We cut trees down, trees that make oxygen. We come in and strip an area completely, saying it will come back. It may, but not the same way."
The state Transportation Department's main responsibility is road conditions, traffic and drivers (a sign in one office says: "The shortest distance between two points is always under construction)." But for safety reasons, the department gets involved with wildlife. Road crews use trees for driver protection against the sun or they make sure trees don't cast too much shade on snowy roads. Crews try out anti-deer fences or plant certain roadside grasses that deer dislike and don't cross roads for.
Violent death happens in the median.
Hundreds of moose, deer and other animals collide each year with cars and trucks on Maine roads. Many animals just pass through the turnpike median or stay only temporarily. One recent morning a Bowdoinham resident saw deer waiting to cross to the median strip; in the evening she saw deer waiting to leave the same median.
Van-Riper is shown a deer skull found under some maples in another median. He feels its teeth and crown. "It's a young buck," he says. "Look at the sharp incisors and protrusions. The teeth aren't ground down yet. He was probably crossing the road. A car hit him. He went into the woods and died."
Van-Riper likes to keep animals alive. He has been known to stop some cars from hitting turtles crossing roads.
"Diversity in turtles is fairly low," he says. "And we don't have many in Maine."
Pub Date: 7/01/97