In fiction, population signs tend to be updated in real time, whether to reflect new additions, or more often, to reflect a murder spree. A frequent means of establishing a "dangerous Wild West town" setting is a shot of the town sign, with several crossed-out population numbers, indicating frequent reductions due to violent deaths and/or people moving out. A ghost town may be shown with a sign that clocks all the way down to zero that way, presumably updated by the last resident to leave.

A specific sub-trope will have a killer be nice enough to peform a community service and adjust the population sign just before or after he offs someone.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* Parodied in a story of the Italian Western parody ''Pedrito el Drito'': a man has just finished painting a population sign when he hears a bang and updates the population. Then a baby is delivered, and the sign has to be adjusted again. Then there's a new shooting... Then the baby turn out to be twins... Then ''quadruplets''... Then the new father [[BlackComedy commits suicide]] because he can't support all of them... At last, the painter snaps and axes the sign into chips.
* In issue 2 of ''Six-Gun Gorilla'' Tango, a settlement in [[DeathWorld the Blister]], has several crossed-out numbers on the "Welcome" sign on the edge of town, with the last one reading "32?" by the time Blue and the Gorilla get there. In issue 4, [[spoiler: PsychoForHire Auchenbran wipes out the population of the town for consorting with the protagonist, Blue-3425, and is seen writing a big red zero on the sign.]]


[[folder: Film ]]

* The movie ''Oblivion'' establishes its SpaceWestern credentials with a scene in which the bad guy moseys into town and adjusts the population sign to -1... with the blood of his latest victim.
* The population sign was updated several times in ''Film/MyNameIsBruce'', as more and more people were killed.
* This occurs in ''Film/{{THX 1138}}''. There was an "Officers in service" counter for robot policemen; after one was in a car crash, the number reduced by a tick.
* ''Film/FreddysDeadTheFinalNightmare'' reveals that whenever Freddy kills he alters the Dream World version of the "Welcome to Springwood" sign to reflect the decreasing population.
* Smalltown, USA in ''Film/TheMuppets'' has a population sign which flips, seemingly by magic, to keep the population count accurate whenever the main characters enter or leave the town.
* In ''WesternAnimation/SouthParkBiggerLongerAndUncut'' at the beginning of the "Little Boy, You're Going to Hell" number, we see a sign for Heaven with the counter at only 2500, while a sign for Hell is in the millions and is rapidly increasing.


[[folder: Literature ]]

* In ''Literature/BoredOfTheRings'', the village of Whee has a welcoming sign announcing its population as "96 and still growing!" with 1004 and 328 each crossed out before it.


[[folder: Live Action Television ]]

* In ''Series/BattlestarGalacticaReimagined'', the president of the colonies keeps a running tally of the number of humans left alive. Starting from the second season, the opening credits also show this number, updated week-to-week. The number is 50298 in the first episode and 39406 in the last one.


[[folder: Theatre ]]

* ''Theatre/PaintYourWagon'' uses this to show the decline of Rumson's population from 4000 to 6.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The town of Fyrestone has a sign like this on the outskirts in ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}''.


[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* There was also that incident in ''LookingForGroup'' where Richard massacres an entire village, and on his way out, he crosses out the population counter on the sign, writing in a '0' instead. Using the blood of his victims as paint, obviously.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* At the start of the ''WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes'' short "Drip-Along Daffy", a gunshot is heard, the population sign goes down one number and a sign reading "Sheriff Wanted" pops up. Pan over to the cemetery, where the population (listed as all sheriffs) goes up one number.
* In the first episode of ''{{Doug}}'', the Bluffington population counter ticks over by four as the family drives past it.
* In the ''FamilyGuy'' episode "To Love and Die in Dixie", an old man in a rocking chair paints over the population number for the town of Bumblescum, amending the number by adding the Griffins to it.


[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Played with on a billboard in LA, listing the number of smoking deaths each year. [[ It gets reset every January 1.]]