Why Do Squirrels Run In Front Of Cars?

Roadkill occurs when animals like squirrels, cats, dogs, and any other animals run suddenly in front of cars or motorcycles. However, why do squirrels do this? Why do squirrels run in front of cars? 

Squirrels perceive cars or motorcycles as predators. As a survival tactic, these small animals run across roads to try to evade the perceived predators. Squirrels know that predators cannot change direction as quickly as they can and because of this, squirrels will suddenly run at 90 degrees in the direction where the predator or car is traveling. This means running across the road. 

Lots of animals often run in front of cars. This happens very often that there is a name made for an animal that gets killed by a car or other vehicle on the side of the road: roadkill. The number of animals that get killed by cars on roads adds up to more than a hundred million per year. These animals often are squirrels, deers, bears, cats, dogs, and birds. 

Squirrels that run across the road are a danger to themselves and the owner of the car or any other vehicle. Let us take a deep look at why squirrels run in front of cars so that you can understand why squirrels execute this kind of act. If you love squirrels or are just simply curious to know the reason why squirrels run in front of cars, this article is for you! 

Why Do Squirrels Run In Front Of Cars?

The reason why squirrels run in front of cars is that it is one of their survival tactics. These small animals don’t know what a car is. They think that a car or any other vehicle is a predator. Yes! Squirrels view your car, motorcycle, or bicycle as a predator trying to catch them so they try to escape as a survival tactic. 

No predator can run as fast as a car that runs at a maximum speed. However, squirrels have no idea about this since they only use their instincts. Squirrels have not learned to adapt to deal with cars and they don’t know that your car is not a predator. 

Squirrels will stop and freeze instinctively when a predator approaches them or if there are any predators nearby. Predators have a hard time searching for their prey if their prey is still and not moving. If the predator sees the squirrel then the squirrel will quickly run away at the last minute in a different direction. Since predators are not as agile as squirrels, they can’t change directions quickly as the squirrels do. This gives the squirrel time to run away. 

This kind of survival tactic works well with predators but not in cars. By the time a squirrel thinks to run away the car would have caught up to it and killed it. This kind of thing happened because squirrels have no idea what cars are since they have not adapted yet to living with humans. 

The direction squirrels choose to run is a result of evolution. To evade the predator, squirrels usually run 90 degrees opposite to the direction that the predators are going. If your car is coming toward the squirrel, it will cross the road in front of the car. This is the reason why squirrels get bumped by a car or other vehicles. 

Squirrels on the road can cause some serious accidents. It is very unfortunate because squirrels are more agile and can react quickly but they usually react in the wrong way because they use instincts not logic. 

Will A Squirrel Survive if Struck By A Car?

Sometimes, if the squirrel is lucky, it will survive after being struck by a car or other vehicle. These small animals do sometimes get crushed and it’s a grisly sight but not always. You can nurse a squirrel back to good health after you hit it with your car or bicycle or the squirrel can recover by itself. 

When a car or other vehicle hits the squirrel, the squirrel is only temporarily shocked. It will lie on its side or its back. Yes! It may look dead but if you try to check it, you will notice that it’s still breathing and alive. The squirrel just needs some time to rest to recover. 

How To Avoid Hitting A Squirrel While Driving?

Always Be On The Lookout

Fall is usually the peak time for squirrel roadside fatalities. This is the time when most squirrel accidents occur. The squirrel community is usually active during this time. They are busy aggregating food for the winter and searching for the right place to store it. 

Most squirrel litters are born in the spring. In autumn, this is the best time when adolescent squirrels begin to venture. Their naivete of the world at large makes them vulnerable to accidents and dangers that surround them. 

It is very essential to stay alert when driving at dawn and dusk. These are the times when squirrels are most active. Squirrels are diurnal creatures, which keep much the same daily schedule as humans. While driving, keep your eyes on these little folks on the road after sunrise and before sunset. 

Practice Defensive Driving

The best way to reduce your potential of hitting a squirrel while you are driving is to practice defensive driving. Defensive driving is driving steadily and safely while remaining alert and prepared for any potential surprises. 

We only have control over ourselves and not over the actions of the squirrels. So at the end of the day, there is nothing much that can be done other than staying aware of our surroundings while driving. However, you must still think first of your safety and the safety of other human beings over the squirrel. 

If you get in an accident because you are trying to avoid hitting a squirrel, you will be the one held accountable. Never swerve, or you will lose control of your car. You still need to be aware of your surroundings while practicing safe driving. 

Final Words

The reason why squirrels run in front of cars is that squirrels are hardwired to run if the predators are near them. The squirrels think that cars are predators. The reason why is because they are not used to living with humans yet. Squirrels can die if struck by a car or other vehicle but sometimes, the lucky ones survive. However, even though there is a chance of surviving, always keep your heads up while driving.

Jake Willhoite
Jake runs AnimalDome.com and has had cats and dogs his entire life. As a kid his family adopted several dogs from the local shelter which set him down the path of animal rescue.
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