Sunday, December 16, 2007

Squirrel encounters bike tire, survives?

Two species proliferate on the campus of UC Davis where I work: bicyclists and squirrels (sciuridae griseus). This is not always a healthy mix. For the most part, my encounters with squirrels have been relatively trouble free. They loiter on the bike paths, but generally zip off when a bike approaches.

Not last Thursday. I was tooling along when a squirrel dashed toward the bike path, paused, then made a quick dart right under my rear wheel. I could feel the bump, as if I'd ridden over a small stone. I stopped and looked back, and no squirrel. It had managed to scamper off somehow.

So my question to readers who might be biologists or zoologically inclined: How guilty should I feel as an animal-loving vegetarian bike commuter? Did this critter sustain fatal injuries? Darwinian natural selection at work? Should I feel lucky it wasn't worse? If it matters, I weigh, well, let's say north of 200 pounds and was riding a touring bike with 38 mm tires.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I doubt the squirrel "scampered away" -- they probably had a surge of adrenaline that allowed them to move to a quiet place to die. What's the speed limit on that road or bike path? And if there are so many squirrels, you and other cyclists need to exercise the same caution car drivers should (and generally don't) when driving on roads where wildlife is present. BTW, I think your photo makes light of the whole incident.

Fritz said...

Squirrels are tough critters; I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Marrock said...

There's every likelihood that all you ran over was his tail so the chances of him dying are fairly slim...

Though his tail will be in pretty sad shape for the rest of his life.

SiouxGeonz said...

I've heard tell of more than one human who came out very much the loser in squirrel-bike interactions. I agree that if you didn't go down, it was prob'ly the tail you thumped (think about how big a squirrel is... would you hop over a speed bump that tall?)
If it helps, a squirrel is basically a rat with a bushy tail (and some subtle mandibular differences, if I remember correctly, that put it into that Sciuridae family... but don't count on the accuracy of my old memory).
I try to be careful 'round the critters 'cause I don't like falling.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Here in the desert we have lizards on the bike path/my commute route. They're pretty quick but I'm still mindful not to run over them.

You know sometimes I'll see a rattle snake while out biking, and that's pretty cool, as they're becoming rare because of all the development in the desert. I've seen people in cars totally freak out and run over them on purpose--making sure they just squish 'em. I never understood that mentality--kind of like those kind of people that when they see an ant, they got to stomp it (these are adults I'm talking about) Geez, what's up with that?

Eric said...

I don't know what kind of squirrels you have around there, but where I live, we have suicide squirrels. I have literally seen squirrels jump in front of speeding SUVs. More than once.

Besides, they're pests that ruin sleeping in on Saturdays by running around on my roof attempting to imitate rampaging herds of elephants.

Clearly they deserve to die and some of them know it.

Suicide Squirrels. Not just a cool idea for a band name.

Anonymous said...

if you ran over "just his tail" that means that his tail will die first then he'll die soon after... all the other squirrels can no longer communicate with him, he also will have a diminished sense of balance and lose his ability to float down the trees. Tails are a squirrels everything and without them they will die.

Squirrels can live to be 12.

Slow down.

Jane H. said...

I have three squirrels living on my block with damaged or partially missing tails. Trust me, they can be hit and still survive (and no, I am NOT gunning down squirrels on my bike!). The main purpose of the tail is for balance and winter warmth (they cover their faces with it). Judging by the many, many squirrels I have seen over the years with stumpy or kinked tails, they can and do survive tail disasters.