I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Friday, September 6, 2019

The story of the moose signs

One of the favorite places for viewing (as opposed to hunting) moose has been the Trans-Canada Highway, especially along the stretch near Come-by-Chance on either side of the narrow isthmus connecting the Avalon Peninsula to the rest of the island. Driving this stretch, I often saw them quietly browsing in their cow-contented way among the many marshes and shallow ponds that border the highway there.Perhaps they had learned that the strip of land bordering the highway was, in effect, a hunting-free zone. 
Unfortunately, this stretch of the TCH is also one of the foggiest on the island, and the number of moose-car accidents, often resulting in fatalities on both sides, has been substantial, one year reaching over eight hundred. The number of moose-related accidents has been augmented by tourists stopping to watch and photograph these placid, impressive creatures, sometimes without even pulling over onto the shoulder. The result has too often been that the tourists or their cars have been plowed into by oncoming vehicles in the fog. 
To address this serious problem, in the late 1980’s the Newfoundland Department of Highways implemented a “moose sign” program. This consisted of life-size sheet-metal silhouettes of moose, sometimes outlined in reflective ribbon tape, that were set up beside the highway a short distance before known moose-watching locations — a semiotic warning system designed to alert drivers that moose, and moose watchers, might be on the highway ahead. 
The presence of the moose signs apparently cut down on the number of accidents at moose-crossing and moose-watching sites, but it also had an unexpected and unfortunate side effect. It seems that drivers found the signs themselves interesting, and worthy of a slowdown or even a stop for photographing. The result was a rash of new accidents at the moose sign locations. 
Sent back to the drawing board by this new problem, the Highway Department came up with a novel solution. Instead of removing the moose signs and replacing them with ordinary lettered warning signs, they placed signs about a half mile or so before the moose silhouettes that read, 

Robert Finch
The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore

I happened to read this chapter while we were riding along the section of the TCH he writes about. There was no fog; it was a clear sunny day. And the moose signs -- and the signs about the moose signs, and possibly signs about the signs about the moose signs -- were no longer there.

Neither were the moose. That's not a surprise in the middle of the afternoon, since they tend to be active early in the morning and after sunset, but they remained elusive. I didn't see the moose we almost hit near Trinity Bay, so the only moose I actually encountered in Newfoundland was on a buffet table, stewed with garlic and honey.

It was delicious.

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