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What's with road kill? You couldn't sneak up on a squirrel in the woods, but you can come barreling at him with your car and hit him. Why is he smart enough to hide in one place and too dumb to get out of his own way in another? I must know.

-- A Driver, La Mesa

Road kill may be the wildlife equivalent of a UFO abduction. The next day Mrs. Squirrel is at her trailer, in muumuu and curlers, telling reporters, "Well, one minute Wardlow's out lookin' fer nuts, and then there's this big suckin' sound, and next minute he's flat and the kids are all screamin'. We din't see a thang."

A sport utility vehicle fits nowhere into the world view of a squirrel. He knows what to do with a tree, a rock, a rabbit, a coyote, with familiar things in his environment, but there's nothing in squirrel land to match the profile or speed of a car. Unlike a human, it doesn't have moveable limbs or a head as part of its outline; nor does it walk, run, hop, or slither like an animal. It doesn't smell like wildlife. So when we walk up on a squirrel, we fit a familiar pattern. A Toyota doesn't. This is a theory of some neurobiologists, but it will be confirmed anecdotally by most birdwatchers. In a car, you can get closer to almost any bird than you can on foot.

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