Alistair Taylor

Bearing witness to the roadway slaughter

My annual vacation by the numbers:

7 – the number of American states visited.

1 – Canadian provinces visited.

4 – Interstate highways travelled.

1– Days before our trip was almost derailed by a mechanical issue.

1 – Drive-in movies we attended.

3 – Road kill coyotes we saw.

9 – Porcupines sacrificed to the wheels of speeding vehicles.

0 – Number of live porcupines we saw.

Immeasurable – Number of small, unidentified furry creatures squished beyond recognition and smeared across the highway in a crimson stain.

Stop the slaughter! I’ve travelled many a highway throughout the northwestern U.S. and western Canada over the years but I have to say, I’ve never seen so much road kill as I encountered in Wyoming this past trip.

Road kill is nothing new, of course, it just seemed like there was more of it on Wyoming highways than I’ve seen anywhere else. Admittedly, that’s just anecdotal but we sure seemed to notice it.

I guess, on one hand, it’s a good thing, i.e., meaning that there is lots of wildlife out there. On the other hand, a lot of it is getting killed. Maybe it’s the landscape too. We were travelling through southern Wyoming, making our way up to spending four days at Grand Teton National Park. The countryside was flat plateau between some mountain ranges.

So whether the flatness makes it easier or more likely that animals wander onto the road to get schumucked by big truck tires or not, I don’t know.

It was just an observation.

The visit to Grand Teton, meanwhile, was great. We had passed through it once on our way to the more famous park to its immediate north, Yellowstone and thought to return and visit it on its own. You’re probably familiar with photos of the range of mountains in Grand Teton which are quite striking. There’s a famous black and white Ansel Adams photo of the Snake River switchbacking in front of the Tetons.

Anyway, I tried my hand at playing Ansel Adams and took a couple of black and white photos. They were less than spectacular.

But I did get some colour pictures that I kinda like. I also shot some video which I’ll be putting up on my personal blog (on Word Press, it’s Routes and Ramblings, I call it, if you’re interested in checking it out) along with some musings from this and other recent trips.

I felt a certain affinity for Grand Teton Park because in the centre of it is Jackson Lake which was dammed for the benefit of Idaho potato farmers in the early part of the 20th Century. One park ranger joked that Idaho potato farmers own the top 30 feet of water in Jackson Lake (that’s how much the dam raised the lake level).

Jackson Lake reminds me of Buttle Lake in the heart of our own Strathcona Provincial Park with its denuded gravel shoreline that looks stark and bare when the Strathcona Dam reservoir level is low.

But despite that, Grand Teton is a beautiful park (as is Strathcona) and I really enjoyed our visit. Had a wonderful encounter watching two rutting bull elk bugle at each other and thrash bushes in an attempt to establish dominance.