Driving down the country road that leads to our house, I witnessed a grey squirrel perched on the double-yellow line in the middle of the asphalt. It stopped, twitched its tail a few times, yet neglected to move. Finally, as my vehicle approached at 35 mph, he darted toward the far side of the road and then shot back suddenly in front the car.
This time, I didn’t hit the squirrel. But sadly, I have run over a few squirrels in the past. You can’t tell what they’re going to do sometimes. The situation only gets worse on roads where multiple vehicles are approaching the same squirrel in the middle of the road. The rodent darts one way, then the other. The cars veer to avoid hitting the squirrel and almost run into each other. But so many times, in so many places, the squirrel zips under a vehicle wheel and winds up twitching and half-dead on the road.
I’ve looked hopefully into the rear view mirror on a few occasions to see if the squirrel I ran over got away. You don’t always hear if they were struck or not. I wince recalling the sight of a squirrel writhing in pain back in my lane. It always feels terrible t kill something like that.
Do squirrels deserve it?
Some people might say, “Well, the dumb squirrels deserve it. They shouldn’t live so close to the road.” Okay, bad choices do have consequences. That’s somewhat how evolution works. Squirrels that don’t survive to breed another year do not get to pass on their genes to the next generation. Over time, perhaps we’ll have squirrels that are better at avoiding cars. Perhaps we already do. That’s one aspect of natural selection.About 15 to 25 percent of young squirrels survive during their first year in life. How many die under car wheels is not exactly known. The colloquial answer is sufficient: Plenty.
Squirrels evolved in a world where there were no roads. No traffic. While they evolved as a species 40-50 million years ago, they’ve only had one hundred years to adapt their behavior patterns to speeding cars. Their world revolves around finding food. And while their instincts clearly tell them to avoid something large charging at them, nothing like a two-ton inanimate vehicle was around just two hundred years ago to change their habits.
Avoiding (or courting) trouble
As human beings, we generally suppose we are smarter than squirrels. We supposedly know how to read situations and avoid trouble. If we see something large or threatening charging at us, our ability to reason tells us how to avoid it. The brightest among us know enough to anticipate danger and take measures to protect our own safety. Anti-vaxxers are not that smart.
Somer types of human squirrels choose to deny that trouble exists even when it is bearing down upon them. They might even see other squirrels dying on the road of life and yet still they stand there, twitching their tails like there is no tomorrow. Some arrogantly assume that God will protect them from disease better than medical science.
Behaving squirrelly during the pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of people died from Covid-19 before a vaccine was available to help ward off the threat of death. Those deaths were not their fault. They were in part the fault of a bloated Fox Squirrel of a human being with an orange face and a penchant for barking up the wrong tree.
Fortunately, scientists did anticipate this danger well in advance of the Coronavirus. They’ve been working on cures for Covid and other strains of illness that jump from animal populations to humans. They are smart squirrels whom dumb squirrels like to malign for avoiding the Deadly Highway of Ignorance.
Science works wonders
The science behind the vaccines to fight this virus was years in the making. What remained was to target the vaccine to combat the specific virus we needed to beat. That involved a technological methodology in one of the vaccines that acts by sending a chemical message to the infected cells that sets off an immunity reaction. Pretty genius. Thank God for smart human squirrels who want to keep people from being run over during pandemics.
This wasn’t the last pandemic the world will face. Our anthropogenic intrusion on the wilds of the world is bringing us into closer proximity with a diversity in diseases that once stood out of reach. When those diseases make the jump to people, millions of humans are effectively “in the way.” They are at risk of being run down by Ebola or any number of infections attacking our systems.
Getting vaccinated makes sense even to chipmunks
Smart people know enough to get vaccinated when helpful medicines become available. In areas of North America where people are vaccinated, the death rates caused by Covid plummeted. In fact, Illinois recently had zero deaths from Covid infection, the first day in well over a year where that was the case. Being humble enough to know when an issue is bigger than you are is a real life saver. Even a chipmunk knows that.
But in areas like Missouri where a large population of “Show Me State” occupants still refuse to get vaccinated, people are getting mowed down like herds of squirrels too stubborn to get off the road.
A numbers game
This is a numbers game, you see. The people choosing to ignore the threat of impending disease are like squirrels living next to a road where traffic speeds by every day. They may make it safely across many times, but eventually, they will get hit.
They hear terms like herd immunity and think it means they are invincible in the face of a virus threat. They do so without realizing that a vaccine provides herd immunity if they’d only take the shot and stop believing in squirrelly theories about the government or Bill Gates is intent on sticking chips in their bodies or turning them into magnetic devices somehow.
It takes a squirrel-sized brain to believe in conspiracy theories over proven medicine. That means anti-vaxxers are still standing out in the middle of the Pandemic Highway screaming “We want our freedom! No one can make us get vaccinated!”
Truth is, they have a rather stark choice to make. They can get the vaccine, or risk getting run over by the Mack Truck of Covid. Then, their fuzzy conspiracy tales won’t matter one bit because they’ll be dead.
Let’s hope that reality sinks into everyone’s squirrelly head.