Monday, May 13, 2013

(Rail) Road-Killed Animals: Maybe not so Dumb?

Today, as she often does, the bride dropped me off on her way to work so I could do a run back to the house.  Today's route was from the village of Waynecastle (PA) north and west via the village of Clay Hill.

At the beginning of the run I explored a short section of the CSX branch rail line that goes through Waynecastle.  In fact, in a case where the real world meets the play world, the tracks are immediately adjacent to the Waynesboro Model Railroad Club building, wherein they have a set of great model train layouts in various gauges.  Mister Tristan (the 5-year-old human being, not the blog) and I have spent some fun time there.

Anyway...along this section I encountered a dead deer, apparently killed by a train, as it was pretty far from any road access point or crossing.  My first thought was, "Now that was one DUMB deer!", then I realized there were mitigating circumstances.  First, the deer could have been killed at night when it was dazzled by the engine's headlights.  But moreover, deer did not evolve in a world where trains were a natural selection hazard, so to call a deer dumb for mis-reacting to an unknown threat is patently unfair.

Ironically, a neighbor's farm dog was recently struck and killed on the Norfolk Southern tracks across the fields from my place.  This dog--well used to trains as the line cuts right through the farm--was exuberant and playful; it seems that he just zigged when he should have zagged.  I heard a train horn that morning when and where there should be no horns as the engineer tried unsuccessfully to warn the dog.

Again, not dumb: just not prepared by evolution for that hazard.

My last experience with train-killed animals came years ago with an armadillo.  I posted about it here a few weeks back where I wrote:

The most interesting roadkill I ever saw was in Texas. While on a business trip I made an unfortunate choice of routes to get from Texarkana to see the Red River. I was running along a 4-lane highway that had an adequate but not very generous shoulder, and the incessant lumber trucks were making me crazy.
So I opted to run along the adjacent railroad tracks. There between the tracks I saw a roadkilled armadillo--the first armadillo I had ever seen, dead or alive, outside a zoo. I figured that this must have been one dumb critter and one dumb species to have been killed by a train.

I've since reconsidered the "dumb" label.  The poor armadillo was just unprepared to deal with a train.


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