Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three Alternative Theories for Road Kill

by Al Butterman

Sure, logic and intuition tells us that all those squished raccoons and possums and things we see by the side of the road were simple auto accidents, but isn’t it possible that other, funnier, reasons exist for the untimely demise of all those cute little critters?  I for one think so, and here are a few possibilities:

1) Suicide
It’s happened to all of us.  We’re running late for work or church or something, flying down the highway with reckless abandon, when suddenly a cute little squirrel ventures out into the road.  It stops, whiskers twitching as if contemplating our rapid approach. We prepare to brake, screaming, “Look out, little squirrel.  Run! Save yourself!”  Or perhaps a more direct, “Get the f*** out of the road!”  In any event, the cute little guy turns around scampers a few feet toward safety, and then, just as we start to breathe a sigh of relief, he turns around again and launches himself under our front tire.

Was this a tragic accident, or a calculated act?  Perhaps he was tired of competing with a billion other rodents for limited nut resources.  Maybe his girlfriend left him, his kid was eaten by an owl, or he suddenly found himself attracted to armadillos and he just couldn’t deal.  While his reasons may never be known, it’s entirely possible that he made a conscious decision to end it all.

2) Highways are like their Mecca
Other than the ones we observe directly, how do we know all the other animal carcasses we see by the side of the road were run over?  Maybe they just crawled up there because the road was the one thing they wanted to see before they died.  Maybe the road holds a certain allure for them, like Stonehenge or the Great Wall of China, and many creatures throughout the forest attempt to make a pilgrimage to see it at least once during their life time.  They don’t have these kinds of things in other parts of nature, you know.  The flash of color, the whoosh of passing cars and trucks, it may all be very exciting for animals of a lower order. And it stands to reason that may of them would wait until the last minute. 

3) Miscommunication
Many of these sick and injured animals may simply be looking for badly needed assistance.  Perhaps some wish to catch a ride to the animal hospital.  When they get to the road, however, they run into a problem.  You guessed it: they lack both human language skills and opposable thumbs.  They can hold up their little paws, but hitchhiking is out of the question. 

Imagine a man and his wife driving down the road. 

Man: Hey, what’s that possum doing over there with its paw in the air?
Woman: I don’t know.  I think maybe it’s asking for money.
Man: Well I’m not giving my hard-earned money to some lazy possum.

That’s probably why so many of those animals die.