Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Being able to touch these animals, is and should be an extremely rare opportunity.
Since moving to France I have had time to realise my fascination with dead things…its not morbid, sick or weird.
When a wild animal that is normally pretty elusive dies it doesn’t move around anymore…obviously… so you can get a pretty good look at it, nice and close up!
Road kill since the 1960s, has been massively on the increase all over Europe due to habitat fragmentation and motor technology, it is an especially controversial subject to photograph. Looking at something that has seen a brutal and often messy end isn’t on everyone’s wish list but for me quite often, it’s an opportunity to look inside a wild animals body which not a lot of us would normally get the chance to do. The teeth are normally exposed in a grimace, some bones or muscle exposed and if, like me, you enjoy tracking animals you get a chance to look at the incredible survival adaptations a lot of these creatures have on their bodies.
European pine marten, (Martes martes), a gentleman stopped and helped me remove this carcass from the road. It is a highly respected animal in these parts, someone must have been driving way over the 30 km per hour speed limit to kill this animal, I hope they felt pretty ashamed about it afterwards.
This beautiful bright-eyed European hare (Lepus europeaus), was hit on a road where, daily, I see wild boar, deer, foxes, hunting dogs and evidence of otters, so why are these people driving so fast!? this is a country road that leads only to the beach…what are they late for…the wave of the day!? who knows. Its eye was dusted with the pollen of pine trees, two sure signs that spring had sprung.
According to a scientific study During the 2013/14 hunting season in Austria it was averaged that 53 European hares a day were being killed on roads…that is around 2 per hour! the conclusion of this study was that there seem to be ‘hotspots’ for road kill, this narrows down the areas that could be managed to help save populations of declining species like the European hare, European otter and European pine marten.
A large male European otter, (Lutra lutra), owns these incredible webbed feet. They have a territory of up to 20 km which means the chances of them crossing a road is high. I had never seen a wild otter this close before, it was both sad and exciting.
I take photos of these animal corpses because I think its important to think about how these animals have died. If it moves us there are certain things we can do about it to reduce the chances of these incredibly important animals from seeing a pitiful end like the roadkill – under the tyre of an over-rated unnecessarily fast, range rover or BMW…not to stereotype or anything.
Once I have taken the photo I move the animal out of the road so that the carrion feeders are not putting themselves at risk. It’s a heart breaking, stomach churning deed but I believe that the animal deserves a last gesture of goodwill before its eaten.
This European hare had some muscle and bone exposed, I got a good chance to see how powerfully made its legs are, its feet were more delicate than i thought and its eyes looked as though it were still alive.
It’s not just roadkill I am interested in…the coastline is swarming with interesting dead things from giant alien jellyfish to adult dolphins that lay alongside their young. They may have become hungry or fatigued often due to due to bad weather or over fishing and ended up on the sand with no strength to get back into the water.
This common dolphin may have died at sea and have been washed up naturally but nearby lay the corpse of a young dolphin that made me think that it could possibly have beached itself, instinctively following its offspring. The hungry corvids, birds of prey, foxes and seabirds start with the soft parts first which makes for a horror scene at first glance, but these gruesome holes the scavengers make give a glimpse into the anatomy of these wonderfully self-aware sea mammals and if you can get past the smell you can learn some really interesting things about them.
Because of the increase in plastic and other toot that is accumulating in the sea, we have created platforms for normally sea based creatures to reach land.
Goose barnacles, (Lepas anatifera), are a trendy edible delicacy in fashionable modern eateries. They are washing up in their tonnes where they have become attached to a piece of rubbish out at sea and found themselves washed ashore with no means of a return ticket. They provide an incredible amount of food for scavenging exhausted seabirds who are suffering because of over fished and polluted seas but I can’t help wondering…would these guys even be on land in these numbers if it wasn’t for humans dumping waste into the sea?…
My favourite sea-bird, the Northern gannet, (Morus bassanus), are not normally seen inland on beaches around here but huge storms this winter have washed many up dead or dying with little chance of survival. It’s very hard to re-waterproof these creatures. Wildlife hospitals like the LPO centre of care in Aquitaine work incredibly hard to reintroduce many seabirds that get taken into their possession for rehabilitation. If the birds survive their trauma but cannot re-waterproof themselves they have to sadly be put to sleep because they have no chance of surviving back at sea.
This Northern gannet’s beak is beautifully prehistoric looking and their bodies are designed better than any human technology to dive at neck breaking speeds into huge waves to catch fish. I don’t know how this bird had died, probably a victim of the bad storms we had that month. I did however find many gannets and other species of sea birds that had fishing lines, hooks and plastic hanging out of their beaks that they had partly ingested.
Seabirds literally cross both ecological and economical boundaries which provides a huge opportunity for countries to work together to acknowledge and discuss different stakeholders interests and values in their environment. They are important advocates for marine conservation and their deaths need to be taken seriously by everyone.
Check these guys out they provide an amazing service to wild animals and are open to volunteers. https://www.facebook.com/Centre-de-soin-LPO-Aquitaine-162874780478667/
Thanks for reading, if you want to know what you can do to help any of these situations, please get in touch.
p.s be safe on the roads.
Stretz, C., Heigl, F., Steiner, W., Bauer, T., Suppan, F. and Zaller, J.G., 2015, April. Project Roadkill: Linking European Hare vehicle collisions with landscape-structure using datasets from citizen scientists and professionals. In EGU General Assembly Conference Abstracts (Vol. 17, p. 7163).
Lescroël, A., Mathevet, R., Péron, C., Authier, M., Provost, P., Takahashi, A. and Grémillet, D., 2016. Seeing the ocean through the eyes of seabirds: A new path for marine conservation?. Marine Policy, 68, pp.212-220.