When You Hear a Splat, Reach for Roger Knutson's Flattened Fauna

updated 08/17/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Observing furry creatures in the wild may be fun, but it certainly isn't efficient. "For every live animal Americans get to observe," says Roger Knutson, "they actually see from five to 25 dead ones plastered to the pavement." With that in mind, Knutson, a biology teacher at tiny Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, has written this year's most indispensable companion for summer motoring, Flattened Fauna: A Field Guide to Common Animals of Roads, Streets and Highways ($4.95). Selling approximately 30,000 copies after only four months on the market, the 88-page paperback provides help in identifying nearly 50 varieties of what it calls "enroaded," or tire-squished, wildlife. There's the jackrabbit ("at least one of the large ears will usually show up in any road presentation" advises Knutson) or the painted turtle (which looks like "a pile of crockery dropped from a considerable height"). Silhouettes of each species in its two-dimensional state are also included. "A crosscountry family trip," Knutson enthuses, "can now be nearly as exciting as a visit to the Serengeti Plain."

Knutson, 54, took his tome to 23 publishers before California's tiny Ten Speed Press gave it a green light. Now his wife of 30 years, Sharon, and their five children, who range in age from 16 to 25, are enjoying his notoriety, even if they aren't crazy about the carcasses littering his road to success. Says Knutson: "Some of them have given me the same response that you'd get for a bad joke over dinner, like, 'Oh, Dad, why did you have to say that?' "

On his regular skid mark safaris, Knutson takes photo with a long lens, but rarely collects samples, wisely figuring that "miscalculation of the speed of vehicles is what created the road fauna in the first place. There's little reason to risk adding yourself to the specimens already there."

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