Dead Animals of Kentucky

I wanted to show you some of the Kentucky wildlife the mules and I are seeing. But my camera doesn’t have a strong telephoto. So to get nice closeups, I’ve just been photographing dead animals as I find them on the roadside. Here’s a selection of Kentucky creatures I thought you’d enjoy.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, road kill, dead animals of kentucky

Animals of Kentucky: Mule Traveler Edition. To give them a museum-esque presentation, I put laid them out against a black background.

As to my labeling, you know that’s a dead chicken – or snake or plush toy – on the side of the road. What’s important is where that road is. That’s why I identified the animals by where I spotted them.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, road kill, dead animals of kentucky

Dead cotton tail in the road. You wouldn’t think twice to stop you car and admire it. Traveling with a mule changes all that. (Lily, Ky)

I try to make respectful photos of my subjects. You wouldn’t go to your Granny’s funeral and stick a camera right in the casket, right? No, you’d ease back a bit, make sure she didn’t smile at you (damn those embalmers are good these days) and snap the picture.

Same for the wildlife I photograph. I respect their space.

I also try not to get creamed while I’m making the photo.

Remember, I’m riding up the side of the highway doing my wildlife photography, not in a photographic blind on the Serengeti camoflaged to look like an acacia tree.

Anyway, the important thing is to not to get hit by a car like this unfortunate raccoon that met its end taking a photo of another dead raccoon. Double deaths like this are rare but I do see them occasionally. Usually it’s raccoons. Occasionally possums.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, road kill, dead animals of kentucky

Double death: two dead raccoons on the side of the highway (outside Middlesboro, Ky)

I don’t want to end up in road kill heaven yet so I employ a particular technique. The moment I spot a critter up ahead, I pull out my camera, ride up to my subject and whoa the mules. Then I lean out of the saddle and make my photo. I never, never, ever, ever, ever, dismount. Just too dangerous.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, road kill, dead animals of kentucky

You want to get nice and close to your subject so you can just lean over from the saddle and snap that photo. And get the hell out before the next car zooms by.

Out of respect for the dead, I try to keep the mules from stepping on my subjects. That’s poor form. It has happened.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, road kill, dead animals of kentucky

Mule Cracker has no respect for the dead. This photo from a photo series I made on road kill Tiger Tail butterflies. The butterfly was dead before Cracker crushed it under hoof.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Kentucky wildlife. I look forward to bringing you the Animals of Indiana. Or maybe I’ll do bananas. Lots of them lying dead on the roads I ride.

Elisha Stanley
2019-05-22 11:58:53

Living is the slow lane is by far one of the best ways to become the present because you are forced to. Your journey is by far one of the most amazing feats I have seen in my lifetime! Something I have always wanted to do myself. Wishing you safe travels and sunny mild days! Would really like the opportunity to visit with you along the way! Elisha Stanley 3173836002
P.S. Was listening to 40 Miles of Bad Road for you.

Bernie Harberts
2019-05-23 23:21:21

Hi Elisha. Great to hear you understand how the pace of mule travel forces you in to the present. So good to hear you’re enjoying this mule ramble. Thanks especially for turning me on to Duane Eddy’s 40 Miles of Bad Road. Listened to it multiple times in my tent last night and of course wanted to shoot a video for it staring mules Brick, Cracker and some of the characters we’ve met on the road.
Happy Adventuring!


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[…] Don’t forget about the Dead Animals of Kentucky […]


[…] Rambling west with my mules – without a rigid goal of where I was going and how I was getting there – was liberating. Freed of an agenda, I could take time to chronicle the random things that caught my eye: the Road Kill Tiger Tails of Tennessee or the Dead Animals of Kentucky. […]

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