Biking on country roads requires a certain ability to stare straight ahead, steadfastly ignoring the prompts of one’s peripheral vision. This, unless you are turkey vulture, is the only way to sail past the assorted road kill ornamenting the route. Unless you navigate a fixed route regularly, you may not realize how much carnage goes on along our roads.
On my own two mile stretch there are, just today, two dead raccoons, two headless water snakes, one flat black squirrel and countless frogs.
The frogs are a special circumstance, a result of our recent heavy rain. There is something about a ripping downpour that brings out frogs by the horde to leap about on the road with wild abandon. Like the froggy version of Singin’ in the Rain. This, of course, results in a froggy massacre that leaves little bodies on the shoulder and mere pale streaks on the paving to indicate former amphibians. City drivers can freak out in a when suddenly faced with a rain lashed highway full of still hopping, squished and about to be squished frogs under that driver’s tires.
The carnage changes with the seasons. In the spring, it is the garter snakes emerging from hibernation and crossing the road to summer hangouts. Then there are the turtles making their ponderous way up from the marsh and across the road to lay their eggs, some deliberately hit by the depraved behind the wheel. Saddest are the big snappers, probably thirty or forty years old, easily seen but struck down anyway. In the fall it’s black and orange woolly bear caterpillars attracted to the fatal warmth and smoothness of the asphalt. And the snakes again, heading back to their hibernation dens and probably slowed by cool weather.
There are the chipmunks, the bunnies, the squirrels, the skunks and even the odd fox, who regularly bite the dust. If only they wouldn’t change their minds just before they reach safety. Raccoons seem especially clueless though so many get killed on the roads that you’d think the road foolish genetic strains would be depleted by now, leaving only the ones who wily enough to survive.
But perhaps even raccoons are not as suicidal as all the birds that insist on darting across, only a couple of feet off the road, in front of a speeding vehicle. Robins and blackbirds love to do this and often pay dearly. Meanwhile crows, who regularly play chicken with traffic in search of snacks on the asphalt, never seem to get killed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dead crow even on the fastest highways. Not for nothing are they deemed among the brainiest of avians.
Animals are not equipped by nature to judge the unnatural speeds of metal monsters hurtling toward them, often behind blinding headlights. In winter, with so many little creatures in hibernation, things are much better, except for the bunnies and deer. I have come across a deer in two pieces, well gnawed by coyotes. Thankfully, the road crews (bless the brave shovel guys) will clean up the big stuff. As for the continual spattering of small stuff, I just stare straight ahead and keep pedaling.