Evolution #FAIL: Why Animals Lose To Cars, Every Time

July 5, 2012

In many areas of the country, it's that time of year when drivers know to keep a keen eye out for roadside vermin.

And by "vermin," we mean the hoofed kind.

State Farm says there are more than 1 million automobile collisions with deer every year, which do hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.

Not to mention a couple of hundred human deaths, most likely in collisions with larger, heavier mammals like elk and moose.

And with man having wiped out the wolf--which in North America used to keep deer populations in check-- in many of the lower 48 states, there are now more wild deer in the U.S. than ever.

But don't deer--let alone the elk, moose, and smaller animals like squirrels, badgers, and raccoons that get killed and injured on the road--learn that cars are dangerous?

The answer, according to a recent Detroit News piece, is no.

Virtually no large furry mammal has evolved to fear the warning signs of fast-approaching vehicles, nor will they in our lifetimes.

"There is nothing in their evolutionary history that would prepare them," said Roger Knutson, a retired college biology professor quoted by the News.

"They don't know anything about vehicles, and there is no normal response to sudden bright lights coming at them--or sounds."

Birds like to eat bugs, which are often found on warm, flat surfaces--like asphalt roadways.

Snakes like to coil up and bask on those same warm roads.

Deer graze in short grass on roadside shoulders, and then leap forward in fear when startled by cars--often directly into the path of an onrushing car.

And so it goes.

Let this be our warning: It's now the height of summer, so pay extra attention to what's ahead of you and on the sides of the roads.

Squirrels you may not be able to avoid, nor should you try if it risks putting you and your car at risk.

Deer will do serious damage to your car if you hit one--$2,900 per covered accident, on average--and hitting an elk or a moose can kill you.

Drive carefully out there.


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