The following story is true. Although short, it took many years to unfold. Please be advised: if you are the sensitive type that believes no animals should ever be hurt by humans, purposely or accidentally, you should stop reading now as this story revolves around roadkill. Try not to touch the ground as you leave, as each step you take likely squashes a multitude of life forms.
The story begins years ago when SN, his lovely wife in tow, moved to South Florida to start a family and follow his career path as an environmental engineer. SN was, and still is, an avid fly angler. The son of a flyshop owner, he was quite accomplished in angling and casting, but as to be expected, upon arrival not very knowledgeable about fishing in the Everglades
I actually do not remember the trip but apparently I may have been his introduction to fishing in Everglades National Park. As I was recently reminded, we were driving down in my van, a canoe no doubt strapped to the top, and we were traveling the desolate yet scenic 40 miles of two-lane road between the park entrance and the marina, probably around sunrise. Along that road, each night, although lightly traveled, there are numerous small animals killed by traffic. Mostly frogs and small snakes, but also lubber grasshoppers, crawfish, and assorted large insects. Occasionally, although infrequently, larger life forms like owls, nightjars, and gators also succumb to automobiles.
One life form commonly encountered along that road, especially in the mornings, although never seen dead, is the Florida Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus). This subspecies of crow is a somewhat smaller version that is almost bluish black and apparently just as intelligent, or even more so, as its famous relatives. These birds relish an early breakfast on that road as they dine on a smorgasbord of freshly crushed critters as soon as dawn breaks.
They seem to have the traffic situation all figured out. They will remain in the path of an oncoming vehicle until what seems to be the last moment, then simply hop over onto the shoulder or opposite lane, then return as soon as the vehicle has passed. Commonly, they are in competition with others, so timing is everything.
So, as SN explained, we were traveling along at around 55 mph when he spotted a crow, or crows, on the road ahead and he cautioned me to be careful. I no doubt replied, “Don’t worry, you cannot hit one of those smartass birds even if you try… watch.” At that point I allowed the van to drift toward one, which nonchalantly hopped a bit further to safety. Don’t ask me how I know this, but it is not uncommon for the hassled bird to respond with an obviously annoyed “Caaaw!”, verbally flipping you the feather.
SN has since moved away from South Florida, still following that career path, but he resided here for years, becoming a rather proficient local angler and along the way acquired a nice flats boat. A ritual that he and two college buddies have adopted is to meet up each year for a week of fishing. Many years after that first trip with me, SN invited his friends to camp and fish in the ‘Glades out of his boat. So, it was his turn to be driving down the Park road at dawn with rookies.
It is here that I need to introduce another black bird that commonly feeds upon roadkill: the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). These birds are probably twenty times the size of a fish crow. Although famous for their flying ability (they are sometimes attributed to being the model for the Wright brothers who invented the airplane), they are quite clumsy on the ground and dumb as a box of rocks. Or maybe they are just unconcerned? Due to their choice of sustenance, carrion, they are disturbingly malodorous. I’ve heard it said that even a black vulture will not eat a dead black vulture.
So, it turns out that SN did not recognize the difference between a Coragyps and a Corvus and the results were rather dramatic. One vulture took out the driver side headlamp and another embedded itself in the grill, but the most impressive impact took place dead center of the windshield right in front of the passenger side seat, behind which two Everglades novices were leaning forward in expectation of seeing something entertaining.
The fact that SN did not reveal this story to me until years after it happened is a testament to the carnage that took place… and only adds to my personal enjoyment.
Oh, there is another interesting fact I forgot to mention: as a defense mechanism the Black Vulture when threatened or scared will vomit.
(insert ROFLMAO emoji here)