December 7, 2012

An unusual headline caught Bankstone News’ eye in this week’s Insurance Times. Single squirrel causes £5,500 in damage, it said.

Not having considered the long-term relationship-forming propensities of bushy tailed arborial rodents for quite some time – not since poring over the anthropomorphically illustrated pages of Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutcase as a child, in all likelihood – Bankstone News began to wonder idly whether the duties and responsibilities of a stable partnership might have deflected this particular woodland critter from the path of wickedness.

The remainder of the article, sadly, shed no further light on this intriguing sociozoological question. Instead it revealed, not a little disturbingly, that small sylvan mammals have become enraged and are now hell bent on damaging the motor vehicles they perhaps hold responsible for invading and befouling their native habitat. Small “fury animals”, the paper reported, are causing an increasing number of what it called “unusual” insurance claims.

The unattached squirrel referred to in the headline had apparently launched itself into the cabin of a convertible and set about its female occupant, leaving her so badly shocked that she lost control, struck a tree and virtually totaled her motor. Whether her attacker leapt up into the branches of the struck tree, pausing only to wave his small clenched fist in defiant celebration of a successful strike, before melting back into its woodland hinterland, was not recorded.

Nor does it stop with the furious rodents. According to comments made by a representative of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Daily Telegraph, from whom Insurance Times nicked this story before we nicked it from them. AA recorded 112 “animal strikes” in October and November alone. Badgers, deer, foxes and even renegade dogs – who have seemingly turned on their adoptive human families – have all been implicated in similar attacks on innocent and unprotected vehicles and their occupants.

The AA spokesperson told the Torygraph that deer are a particular threat at this time of year because it is the “mating season”. Those who fail to find a partner can presumably turn nasty and vent their frustration on motorists unfortunate enough to find themselves in the wrong neck of the woods. Their chief weapons are apparently stealth and surprise. “Deer tend to move at dusk or very early in the morning,” the spokesperson warned. With daylight hours in scarce supply as we approach the Winter Solstice, drivers may not know what’s hit them until it’s too late.

In matters like this, it helps to know your enemy. Different animals resist mankind’s vehicular encroachment on their domain in characteristically different ways. Squirrels – even married ones – are notoriously ill-tempered and, as the story above clearly illustrates, have a unique ability to launch both ground-based and airborne assaults. Deer, hedgehogs and badgers – the latter doubtless radicalised by the threat of cullage in the name of Bovine TB – are particularly militant and have frequently shown themselves capable of launching suicide strikes. Pheasants and partridges on the other hand take a more Gandhiesque approach, restricting themselves to non-violent resistance which usually takes the form of simply dawdling about in front of slower-moving vehicles like that Chinese bloke with the tank.

The best advice for motorists worried about animal attack is simply to avoid traveling unless your journey is absolutely necessary – or get yourself a plated Landy or Hummer and keep the windows tightly shut when venturing into rural areas.


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