The Sage Grouse

Bumps In The Road

The August issue of National Geographic features the Kaziranga National Park in northeast India, most of which is Brahmaputra River floodplain.  This 400 mile long east-west mix of tall grass prairie, sand bars, marshes and woodlands is one of the last refuges for Bengal tigers,  Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephants, Asiatic water buffalo, basaringhs, sambars and hog deer.

The Brahmaputra, an incredible U-turn river draining much of steep southern Tibet running east, rounding the Tibetan uplift and turning south, then disgorging its  rich floodwaters and sediments all over northeast India and Bangladesh,  owns its bottomlands.  No dams, no diversions control or mediate this angry river; it owns the floodplain.  Lots of people try to live there and they die by the hundreds or thousands every year.

The wildlife, likewise affected by these floods, scoot their endangered butts right out of there in the rainy season.  Problem:  once they escape the floodplain in search of forested protection, they encounter highways and railroads running east-west along the edges of the floodplain.  Carnage ensues.

There are parallels in Wyoming, although at least we do not encounter migratory rhinos who outweigh a Jeep and can flip most cars into the nearest ravine, nor elephants, nor tigers.  Rhinos and tigers and ellies, oh my.

The highway death toll on these roads along the edges of the Kaziranga Park is stated to be appalling, for both bipeds and quadripeds.  The carnage is huge.

Back to Wyoming:  on many of our highways, the carnage is also huge.  Deer and pronghorn, turkeys and sometimes other large mammals are slaughtered, and there are all of these unexplained unrestrained rollovers and all of the wildly skittering skid and yaw marks made by tires which we see daily.  How many of these accidents and deaths were caused by ungulates crossing the road?

I recently spent 18 days driving around in Peru, mainly in mountainous areas.  The government installs asphalt speed bumps at the edges of all inhabited areas, and often in the middle of “urban” areas.  Locals build their own clay and gravel speed bumps wherever they want to slow the traffic.  Bumping over these semi-obstacles was inconvenient for us, even annoying.  It happened dozens or hundreds of times each day.  But, we did not run over a single goat, pig, chicken, child, dog or drunk the whole trip.

The semis had to stop and crawl over these bumps in their lowest gear.  If I wanted to learn how to swear in Spanish, riding in a truck would have provided the ultimate language immersion experience.

These speed bumps could be very useful along the Brahmaputra.  They could also be useful along the Pinedale Anticline and other areas of frequent vehicle-quadruped conflicts.  We could hear some swearing there too.

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