Look Both Ways Crossing Autobahn

Monday, August 28th, 2017

“Grieving Momma-Duck Paralyzes Traffic on the A3 Autobahn” – it’s quite a story, a tragedy, really, reported by the Rheinische Post from news-agency dispatches.

As we humans know, you actually never try to walk across the Autobahn in Germany, not unless we’re talking about a pedestrian overpass. But this momma-duck didn’t know anything about that, and apparently led her brand-new brood of ducklings onto Autobahn 3, at the spot just to the west of Cologne where it crosses Autobahn 4 coming from the west.

That brood numbered a bit more than five ducklings. We know at least “five” because, unfortunately, that was how many smashed duckling bodies were left there on the pavement, before the momma-duck and the rest of the ducklings managed to get off the highway quick and into the surrounding foliage.

The problem was that the momma-duck then reappeared at the same spot around three hours later, presumably trying to find out what had happened to her missing progeny. She was harder to drive away this time; for whatever reason, there were firefighters on the scene, but she wouldn’t let herself be caught nor be shooed away from the Autobahn – where, we can assume, the on-coming high-speed traffic was staring to make things dangerous.

So the police shut the Autobahn down! For the duck! As they tried to chase her away, which is where she went after about half an hour. (I would have loved to hear the report on the traffic bulletin broadcast by both national and the local radio stations!)

Now, this happened during the day last Wednesday, so a business day but with perhaps traffic a little less thick than usual because for many it was the tail-end of summer vacation. But the traffic was undoubtedly still substantial – this is Autobahn 3, people, the Autobahn coming out of Cologne and paralleling the Rhine southward for a while before heading eastwards to Frankfurt am Main, and beyond.

I have never heard of the Dutch authorities ever shutting down a highway due to any bird. Then again, in a couple of places there highways do have “animal” overpasses, that is, bridges built over the highway from the woods on one side to the woods on the other, for wildlife to use. These are expensive, of course, and perhaps one could argue about their actual benefits to the public versus their costs; but then again, perhaps Germany could take up this idea and add a couple of these to its infrastructure budget nonetheless. Sorry, no sort of “public service announcements” are going to be able to educate the ducks!

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