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Jul 9, 2009

Roadkill of the week – carnage on the Tanami Track

All about me lay the scattered, shattered remains - here the severed head, there a leg, stripped of flesh, next to the road another head, ten feet away a razor-taloned foot, wing and tail. Whatever had happened here had been brief and incredibly brutal.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

wedgetailhead3

Of the hundreds of highway death scenes I’ve stopped at over the years this latest would qualify as one of the worst and most distressing.

Ten days or so ago I was driving homewards up the single-lane strip of bitumen that passes for a highway in this part of the world and had pulled off onto the red dirt verge to allow a roadtrain to pass.

That truck was just one of the many 140-tonne, four-trailer behemoths that do the 1100 kilometre round trip up the Tanami Track from Alice Springs carting diesel fuel, cyanide and other essentials to The Granites mine.

You always get off the road for those guys.

roadkillfeathersOne hundred metres up the road I noticed a common indicator of a recent bird killing zone – for 100 metres or so the ground and short grass alongside the road was littered with downy feathers,with a scatter of larger feathers blowing around in the stiff breeze.

I stopped, got out of the car and looked about me.

In the middle of the road was a large, slowly congealing pool of blood, with large splatters indicating that whatever – most likely a large kangaroo – had died here and had been hit by an inbound vehicle.

There was no sign of any kangaroo carcass close handy – maybe some caring driver or a hungry Dingo had dragged it off the road and well into the scrub, thus saving a few more birds from an untimely death.

As I looked at this scene more closely the true horror  of what had happened emerged. All about me lay  the scattered, shattered remains – here the severed head shown above, there a leg – stripped of flesh, next to the road another head, ten feet away a razor-taloned foot, wing and tail – this time of a younger bird.

An open-air slaughter house – whatever had happened here had been brief and incredibly brutal – two  Wedgetailed Eagles had been hit and torn – literally – limb from feathered limb, ground into paste on the road and left for the carrion-eaters.

The horror, the horror.

I can say no more – let my pictures bear witness and tell their own story.

eagleseveredleg

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3 thoughts on “Roadkill of the week – carnage on the Tanami Track

  1. Roadkill of the week: life & death in the Pacific Garbage Patch – The Northern Myth

    […] written here before about why I take photographs of things that have been killed by human actions – in my case I […]

  2. Bob Gosford

    Darwin – I agre with a lot of what you say – that is why I found these injuries hard to explain. I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of dead WTE roadkills and, apart from those that have been hit by slashers, most are relatively intact.
    But these have been torn apart – either at the time of impact – which as you note is highly unusual; or post mortem – perhaps by Dingoes. That last explanation is not only inconsistent with any other carcass I can recall and doesn’t seem like any Dingo behaviour I’ve ever seen…
    And I didn’t mean to imply that the kills were fresh or caused by the road-train that had just passed me – obviously they’d been there for at least 24 hours.

  3. Bob Gosford

    Darwin Comedians made a comment that I’ve carried over here…

    “I’ve driven thousands of km’s areound Australia. In order to kill a raptor, let alone two, you have to be traveling in excess of 160km/hr. I know that from living in the Territory when there were no speed limits. If you did not slow down when eagles were up ahead, you most definately hit them. For the last two years I have driven all over the Territory for work and at 130km you would be hard press tp even clip an eagle or kite. the only one I have hit fly under the front of the car chasing a lizard. Your photo’s show very dried reminants. So obviously these were not taken immediately after what ever happened.

    I find it hard to believe a semi could hit one let alone two eagles. Certainly if it ran over the carcass’ it would spread the feathers like you described. seen that plenty.”