They drive a custom made vehicle. They come to the rescue when an animal is in need...of being scraped off the road. They're Ingham County's minor offenders reporting for roadkill duty every Saturday at 6:00 a.m.
"It's not something they want to do," said Ingham County Sheriff's Volunteer Deputy Bob Plesscher. "They do ask us to call it an early day, 'Can we go in?' They don't like it when we go after the big animals or the fresh ones, but they do do a good job. They get out there. Our job is of course, to keep them safe."
They're part of the Ingham County Sheriff's Office new Dead Animal Recovery Team, or D.A.R.T. It's a way for 55th District Court judges to offer an alternative sentence that might send a wake up call. The program was announced in April, and now it's in full swing.
"There's no doubt this is a great deterrent for these guys," Plesscher said. "Every one of them has said that. They definitely feel like they're learning a lesson. To a man, they'd rather do this than spend time in County [jail]."
The non-violent criminals wear reflective vests and protective gloves while scooping up deer, raccoons, and unfortunately, even former pets. They collect about 20 carcasses on a normal day. Depending on the size, it's taken to Granger's landfill on Grand River Ave. or simply disposed of back at the Ingham County Sheriff's Office dumpster.
The reported roadkill list keeps growing, and the team is finding it difficult to meet demand every weekend. Kirsten Burchill called D.A.R.T. twice and waited two weeks for them to remove a decomposing deer near her driveway.
"We were hoping that they were able to get out here or come out a little bit sooner," Burchill said. "You don't want it to turn into a health issue. We have a lot of families riding their bikes by here."
She said the crew was very professional when they did arrive, and she's happy with the job they did.
Plesscher said they're trying to make the clean up as efficient as possible, but it is a challenge for a program so new.
"Getting out on the road, grouping the properties together, going to locations that have been called in and the animal's already been picked up or its decayed and gone," Plesscher said. "So, we're going through that learning process."
All the equipment for D.A.R.T. was paid for using the inmates' booking fees. Because the deputies are volunteers, the only cost to taxpayers is the gas money.
Plesscher said he's happy to help because it means the full-time officers are free to respond to emergency calls.