… And they will know us by the trail of Dead

Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2010. 9:36 PM
Dunedin, New Zealand

Murder in the streets! On the corridor from Cromwell to Queenstown, a mere 70km or 5hrs in the saddle, I saw an unbelievable number of furry crime scenes. How many? By my calculations, today’s death toll numbers 700.

Rabbits and Hedgehogs take 25% of the total each, Possums and Stotes (which are a lot like ferrets) take a close 20% each, and then birds, the occasional cat, and unrecognizable smudges make up the balance. Call me morbid for taking in the details, but I couldn’t help it, nor could I resist smelling the occasional stench of death, which, I’m happy to report, was exclusive to those few with freshly spilled guts that looked like the cornucopia from Thanksgiving illustrations.

Attempting not to obsess, I couldn’t help but wonder how many unfortunate run-ins lay in my path, so I counted, in hopes that I would then know and be able to get past it and focus on more pleasant things. In the space of a kilometer, on three separate and distant trials, I counted an average of ten kills (from 9, 10 and 12), which is how I came upon my hefty figure.

What does it all mean!? Well, there’s an abundance of critters, and likewise a lack of natural predators. The poor buggers aren’t too bright, nor do they learn from the mistake of their family members who have crossed in their path before them. Which reminds me, I saw a chicken near the road and chased him back into the farm to safety, laughing all the while puzzling why is he crossing the road in the first place? Cars drive either too fast to avoid this sad result, or they don’t care.

I have to myself admit to hitting two birds during my 6 weeks of road trip in the van, as well as having other near-misses with critters scurrying across. One time I was going 100 (the speed limit, ~60mph). He hit hard and probably died, rather I hit him hard. The second time I wasn’t moving as fast, and the sweet little green and yellow bird was flying along just in front of me, keeping up for a few moments, up and down, up and down, then whack! he bounced off the glass – I think he might have been ok – which is when I reasoned that at 100, there’s nothing a spooked animal can do to avoid us, which probably explains why I didn’t see much roadkill in India, where 90% of the traffic on the roads are tuk-tuks going 40.

I’m not looking to point any fingers, but another thing I thought of is that animals are attracted to the road, as they are everywhere. Heck, in Laos it was standard behavior for dogs to sleep in the road, and, same as in India, they fared OK. After all, that’s where all the people and other animals hang out, and also yummy morsels (our trash) to munch on. Speaking of which, another observation: most of the trash on the roadside is from fast food: McD’s, Subway, KFC… and not much else. Which prompts me to ask, in a country where a majority are mindful to keep the countryside clean, who are these people who think fast food garbage belongs on the street?! I actually saw someone in Christchurch traffic just throw their fast food beverage cup out the window into the road and I practically vomited in outrage. Who are they? Anyway, I think they’re a big part of the problem. Another questionable observation was finding many pink items along the side, little underwear, an odd Croc (size 2), tattered t-shirts… WTF? Perhaps pink just stands out, but in such abundance of tiny sizes, odd.

A friend told me today that in Australia she saw 20 Wallaby roadkills before she saw a single living one, and that’s the biggest difference between Oz and NZ: the size of the animals. Otherwise, same story. On that note, I’ll leave you with a snapshot of the local menu at the Puke Pub in Pukekura, population 2: