I was trolling through Facebook over my lunch break, and one of my college friends in Houston posted how she felt bad about running over a squirrel this morning.
“35 years of non-homicidal driving and then, this morning, I ran over a squirrel. Well, I feel like the worst person ever,” her post stated.
I told her not to feel bad. Squirrels are suicidal. They are attention-deficit maniac rodents with pretty, fluffy tails.
My friend and I had similar experiences Wednesday morning. Cruising along the back-country road I live on, there was a squirrel in front of me sitting on the yellow line. We were a second or two apart, and the critter decided in the moment, “hey, I can totally make it across the road in front of this big metal monster that’s 1,000 times my size and is barreling right towards me.”
I still don’t know if he made it. It was around the bend of a curve, so I didn’t see the aftermath, whether he darted up a nearby oak tree or is flat on the asphalt a lá Wile E. Coyote.
I attended the University of North Texas, where there is in residence, due to a recessive gene in the local squirrel population, an albino squirrel in every generation. A result of which, besides semi-celebrity status — T-shirts, a Facebook page and everything — all of the squirrels on campus have no aversion to humans. They will straight up steal a pizza slice from your table — while you watch.
This reminds me of the movie “Over the Hedge,” a digitally animated cartoon movie that follows a bunch of woodland creatures who wake up from hibernation to find their patch of wilderness has been bulldozed around them to create suburbia. A savvy raccoon, RJ, voiced by Bruce Willis, shows them how to adapt to their new neighbors. One of the characters, voiced by Steve Carrell, named Hammy, is an ADHD squirrel. In one memorable scene, Hammy drinks an energy drink that basically slows down time for him, turning him into a super squirrel who can dance between sprinkler drops and save the day.
This also reminds me of the movie “Up,” where all the dogs are distracted by the word “squirrel,” but that doesn’t quite fit with what my column’s about, unless you’re looking for family-friendly movie suggestions.
I get it. We humans are basically pushing through their territory, their natural habitat, but squirrels are just their own brand of special. They follow Murphy’s Law, and the only reason they are still around is because they breed like rodents, cute rodents, but still. According to Smith College, the Eastern gray squirrel can breed up to twice a year with litters numbering from one to eight.
Fun fact, a group of squirrels is, appropriately, called a “scurry.”
So, stay safe on the roads, and if you see a squirrel on the side of the road, don’t be surprised if he goes for the extreme option.