In the United States alone, about a million animals die daily from vehicle-related incidents. These statistics also believe that squirrels account for the highest fatalities, even above cats, dogs, and rats, which are much more common animals. It is perhaps because of the uncanny behavior of squirrels running in front of cars.
Many believe that squirrels run in front of cars due to their deeply ingrained survival instinct which tells them that cars are predators after them.
It could also be due to their limited depth perception, which keeps them from sensing how close they are to these cars. Whatever the reason, this behavior is leading to the death of lots of squirrels by the hour.
You may also want to check out What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard.
Are Squirrels That Dumb?
Statistics keep it that in the United States alone, there are about 41 million squirrels yearly, many of which are from road-accident-related causes.
This number is alarming, and it brings a question to mind – are squirrels that dumb that they are killed that much yearly, and are they not intelligent enough to steer clear of danger?
No! No! No! Squirrels are not dumb at all. If anything, they are brilliant animals that can take care of themselves, especially in the wild, where they have few human interactions.
These little mammals are considered smart rodents, even above rats and mice. Squirrels’ quickness and intellect lead them over other predators and are more giants.
For instance, a squirrel will remain motionless when it senses danger, and it moves swiftly when it observes to find a route of escape.
Squirrels are some of the few wild animals that eat food from the hands of humans. Only a few animals are brave enough. Do you know that this furry animal can mislead other animals like their predators and even humans?
For instance, squirrels pretend to bury food in a given location to deceive other thieving animals into stealing their loot. Meanwhile, they are hiding their food in another location away from the prying eyes of their stalkers.
Do you know that squirrels are wise enough to store food and nuts in a given area that they feed on during the cold winter?
It takes a brilliant animal to do that. These animals can run through unpredictable paths and even trick themselves out of a dire situation.
Squirrels use several vocalizations to communicate with each other; for instance, by twitching their tails, they communicate to others the presence of a threat.
So even though many squirrels get killed on the road, it is not a sign that they are dumb. It just tells you that they are still animals despite being brilliant.
The Life Expectancy Of Squirrels
Squirrels are very hearty and lovable animals that many people have come to love. That is why we see more of them coexisting with people, even in urban areas than other animals. It is why we have more and more squirrels living in captivity as pets with people.
In captivity, squirrels can live for up to 24 years, as they are adequately cared for by humans, fed, and protected from infections, disease, and predators. In the wild, however, with their active and unpredictable lifestyle, their life expectancy is significantly reduced to an average of 6-10 years.
Do you know that many squirrels born each year die before they are one year old? That is because they have a lot of predators like coyotes that hunt them, not to mention the number that die from natural causes and their human interaction, like being hit by cars.
By and large, squirrels live a reasonably long life if they can keep themselves off the road where they are in danger of being hit by vehicles.
Why Do Squirrels Run In Front Of Cars
The way squirrels run in front of cars is unlike intelligent animals. Hence, many people, especially scientists, have tried formulating theories about why squirrels always run back and forth in front of moving cars.
Many people think that squirrels run in front of cars because instinctively, they think cars are some predator who is after them. You know that squirrels can spot predators like hawks, owls, and foxes from a distance, and when they do, they run back and forth to confuse the predators and save their lives. Because squirrels do not see cars as we see them, they employ the technique of trying to confuse their “predators” – which in this case is a “harmless” or, should we say, “hazardous” car.
Some other people theorize that the squirrel’s eyesight is responsible for why squirrels run in front of cars. Squirrels’ eyes are positioned on the side of their head, giving them a well-developed sense of peripheral and posterior vision. How their eyes are fixed helps them fend off potential advances from behind. Still, the disadvantage is that their visual field of view from both eyes does not intersect, hindering their depth perception and making it hard for squirrels to tell how rapidly a speeding object moves toward them. It explains why they can run into the road even when cars are approaching at high speed because they don’t know the cars are moving on to them very fast.
Synurbanization is a word that means “the adaptation of wild animals to urban environments,” this is partly responsible for the seemingly irresponsible behavior of squirrels as they run into moving vehicles. The fact that squirrels are continuously exposed to humans has made them gradually become desensitized to humans and their urban surroundings. So even when cars approach them as they freeze or run back and forth on the road, they tend not to be as sensitive to these cars as they should be.
Another plausible reason squirrels will run into a moving car would be because they are trying to escape from a predator. Since they do not know the difference between roads and other areas, they can run into an approaching vehicle unintentionally because they are concerned with self-preservation and how to escape from a predator. At the same time, they are entirely unaware of the threats posed by the looming metal giants.
Why Are More Squirrels Killed By Vehicles During Fall?
If you have noted, you will see more squirrel roadkills happen in fall than in other seasons. It is connected with the mating pattern of squirrels. Squirrels mate two times a year and give birth in spring and fall. So what happens is that the young squirrels born the previous autumn are out of the nest for the first time in fall. Because of their Inexperience and all the other factors we mentioned earlier, like trying to avoid predators by evasive maneuvers, they end up running into moving cars.
Another explanation is that squirrels are more active in fall than in other seasons, especially as they try to store nuts for winter and fatten themselves up. This activity puts them in a position where they can easily collide with moving vehicles than at other times.
How To Mitigate Potential Squirrel Collision With Vehicles
There is so much we can do to keep squirrels from running to moving cars and getting into a fatal collision that kills these furry friends by the millions yearly. The onus is on us as humans to try and minimize the rate at which squirrels are killed from running to the.
The most important thing about mitigating squirrel collisions without cars is to watch out for these rodents, especially during fall when they are most active. Thankfully, squirrels are diurnal and are more active during the day when we can see them and avoid hitting them. That is what many call Defensive Driving – how people steadily and safely while remaining alert and prepared for potential surprises.
Some people recommend that,
you continue on your natural path when you see a squirrel in the road since It’s a lot more dangerous to try to accommodate these furry creatures because if you swerve off the road or suddenly break to avoid them, not only will you be disconcerting them, but you will also be risking your safety and those of others.
You should know that you will be held accountable for an accident that happens in an attempt to avoid hitting a squirrel, so the best option is to drive steadily and safely around squirrel-prone areas.
Squirrels are cute, little wild animals who have almost become domesticated because we coexist with them more than ever. We see them all around, and it is so common these days to see them running into a busy road.
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It is a counterintuitive behavior because they perceive cars as a predator and are reacting the way they naturally react to their predator. We can keep many squirrels from dying from vehicular accidents by driving more steadily and safely.
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