Friday, March 17, 2006

Every girl needs a hobby...

I have many hobbies, mostly normal ones like reading, drawing, painting, sewing, and knitting. But I have one extremely unusual one that earns me peculiar looks everytime I indulge my whim to practice it. I love to photograph roadkill.

I know what you're thinking: That's gross. That' s because you're thinking about it wrong. Taking a picture of a dead animal is not nearly as gross as peeling its rigid carcass off the highway and hauling it home. I've never had a desire to skin anything, no matter how perfect the pelt. A picture is so much cleaner.

I'm selective in what I shoot. I don't brake for any old dead animal. I whiz past squashed raccoons, pancaked possums and dismembered deer on a daily basis. No, something has to be pretty unusual for me to stop, grab my camera and run across four lanes of traffic for a keepsake photo - endangered rattlesnakes, piebald deer, bears.

Take for instance my Find Of The Day, a coyote. Coyotes are still a novelty in our area, where they started showing up about four or five years ago. Keeping a photographic record of the ones killed not only helps me keep a keep track of unusual wildlife in my area - another interest of mine - but gives me something to pass on to my biologist friends, who are genuinely happy to get such information.

I saw a rare, red-phase black bear (they can come in other colors than black) hit a few years ago, but we were in heavy traffic and I didn't have my camera. The bear had just been hit and, while dead as a doornail, all the injuries appeared to be external. The carcass was in excellent shape, and I was planning to go buy a camera at the next exit and come back for a few shots. But - as luck would have it - the guy behind us saw it at the same time, pulled over and threw the carcass on the back of his truck. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But it would have made a cool photo.


Taylor said...

You have a lot of critters in those parts. And yes, that is an unusual hobby. It breaks my heart to see a dead animal on the road. As I drive by I avert my eyes, and here, you get out and snap a photo. Much stronger than me in that respect.

The most unusual critter I've seen in these parts was a lovely gray fox. It was standing at the outter edge of Love Field Airport. I couldn't believe my eyes. It had that lovely fluffy tail wrapped around to its front. We just stood there staring at each other. I've never seen another.

Morgan said...

I love all animals, except monkeys. But that's only because of The Terrible Incident With The Monkey.

Coyotes started coming in a few years ago, and I started writing about them. I find them fascinating, but part of me wishes they'd never arrived because they kill red foxes. The leave the grays alone because they don't cross hunting habitats (grays are more woodland foxes while reds and coyotes like a combination of fields/woods). We've seen a remarkable decline in red foxes since the coyotes moved in.

We had a lovely gray fox up from our house that got killed right before Christmas. I didn't have my camera but we got out and had a good look at it. They have the most unique cat-like face. They can climb trees, too, did you know?!

They're such delicate, smart creatures.

I don't think the coyotes are here naturally. While some may be here through natural migration, fox hunters who smuggled them in to train their dogs can be blamed for their spread.

Coyotes can be pretty, though. They're sneaky but if you see one in an open field, they can be bold. I've had them sit right in the field just fee from me and stare and stare. One wonders what they're thinking!

Taylor said...

Didn't know that about gray foxes.

Coyotes are common at my aunt and uncle's place. At night, you see their glowing eyes in the distance, looking at you. They're kind of interesting but can get the small pets. My aunt was just recently telling me how they've been known to lure puppies away and then eat them! She's noticed that they've been getting closer to the house recently. Maybe the drought we had has diminshed their prey and they're getting bolder out of necessity. Poor things.

prettylady said...

My ex-boyfriend the Buddhist monk had a mother who was an archeologist, or something to do with digging up dead things. Every time she passed a roadkill she'd scoop it up, put it in a Ziploc and store it in the freezer. Then on Boiling Day she would dismember the bloody relics, making the flayed corpses dance like puppets for her two impressionable little boys, and boil them down to the bones. Later she'd reassemble the skeletons.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the Buddhist monk had the native emotional sensitivity of a tree slug.

Morgan said...

"Then on Boiling Day she would dismember the bloody relics, making the flayed corpses dance like puppets for her two impressionable little boys, and boil them down to the bones. Later she'd reassemble the skeletons. "

YIKES!!! I feel so, so....NORMAL!!
Thanks Pretty Lady. I don't know whether to laugh or shudder.

Actually, your friend's mom may have helped your friend become a better Buddhist. He probably learned at an early age to detach himself from things. I'm sure he got a lot of early practice at those puppet shows.

Morgan said...

I do have to add a caveat about reassembling the skeletons, though. That's actually a peculiar pasttime some nature buffs enjoy. Larry's worked with exotics for years and when something unusual or large in his collection died, he'd throw the carcass in a tub full of flesh-eating beatles called domestids (I think). They'd eat everything but the bones and then - for measure - go over the bones. And -voila!- you'd have a perfect, ready-to-reassemble skeleton. Larry never had time to do it himself so he gave most of his bones to scientists and museums to reassmeble for their collections.

Have you ever been to the osteology exhibit at the Smithsonian? It's really interesting. The simian skeletons are particularly interesting - very human.

Morgan said...

Taylor, I've seen coyotes behind our house and when our neighbors kept cows I used to hear them singing around the perimeter of the fence during calving season. It's a very distinctive sound they make.

I've heard a lot of stories about their killing small animals, but I think that's more in areas where their habitat butts up to human habitat. Our area still has a lot of huntable land and so far we haven't had a lot of missing cats turn up but it wouldn't surprise me if we don't start losing some as the coyote population grows.

Lord knows we've got enough feral cats around here; it'd be like a kitty buffet if the coyotes ever decide to opt for easy pickings.

prettylady said...

Oh, I love bones myself, have even made art out of them. And I do believe my Buddhist friend was wired for imperturbability, long before his mother got hold of him. He was part Native American, and had a certain aura of impassivity which I later associated with his genes. At the time it merely freaked me out, being an abnormally expressive person myself.