Deer compost pile may be answer to carcass woes

County officials to consider new approach to dealing with hundreds of deer killed on roads

A young buck helped himself to snack from a bird feeder in a yard in the City of Port Washington. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff


It’s an annual rite of spring, when the snow melts away and motorists are treated to viewing dozens of rotting roadside deer carcasses hidden all winter by a blanket of snow.

Ozaukee County officials are looking to reduce that number, perhaps by creating a composting system that would be the first in the state.

We’re heading into car-vs.-deer season.

In 2017, there were 378 deer crashes in Ozaukee County, injuring 14 people with no fatalities, according to the state Department of Transportation. Statewide there were 20,521 deer crashes, nine fatalities and 641 injuries.

Many if not most of those deer end up on the side of the road.

According to an information sheet from county Highway Commissioner Jon Edgren to be reviewed by members of the county Public Works Committee when it meets Thursday, car-killed deer (CKD) were historically cleared from the roadsides by private entities who contracted with the state Department of Natural Resources.

But state budget changes in 2015 made counties and local municipalities responsible for clearing them from their roadways.

Since then, Ozaukee County has been responsibile for clearing deer from county and local roads while the state Department of Transportation watched over state roads. Both the county and the state contracted with a private individual to clear Ozaukee County carcasses.

In April, that party terminated the contract, Edgren wrote.

Removing a carcass usually meant getting it out of the right of way and letting “the natural process to occur,” meaning decomposition, Edgren wrote, citing DNR practices.

Another preferred option was to put them in a landfill.

The county is considering two other options, however. One is to stockpile the carcasses in a dumpster to be hauled away to a landfill. The other is to create a compost site where the carcasses would be placed on a 12-inch bed of wood chips and covered with another 24 inches of wood chips. 

Decomposition would be odor free, “low-labor intestive” and be complete within six months, after which the material could be used as topsoil on ditches or other excavation sites, Edgren said.

  The composting site would be 24-by-32 feet on a paved surface. Setting up the composting site would cost about $12,500. No location has been selected for the site.

County staff has recommended that the composting option be explored. Using dumpsters would have “longer-term costs and there is the potential for odor problems during the summer months without regular pick-ups,” Edgren wrote.

If Ozaukee County opts for composting, it would be the first in the state, county officials were told by the DNR. It is in use in other states.

According to Edgren, DNR officials “are excited about the opportunity to explore CKD composting as an option that would remove carcasses from populated areas, reduce material going into landfills and create a positive end-product through the process.”

The compost also could be used for other animals who are killed on roadways, literature on the subject indicates.

The Public Works Committee meeting is at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Highway Department meeting room, 410 S. Spring St., Port Washington.


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login