When Animals Attack . . . or Snack on Your Car

·3 min read
Photo credit: Car and Driver
Photo credit: Car and Driver

From the May 2022 issue of Car and Driver.

Like many of us, deer have been having a hard time. According to State Farm, as of June 2021 in the U.S., insurance claims due to animal collisions were up 7.2 percent in a year, and two-thirds of those accidents involved Bambi's relatives (don't tell your kids). Drivers in West Virginia have the highest chance of hitting an animal, and those in Hawaii are least likely to. But don't book that flight just yet—wildlife is wild everywhere.

In Germany, It's the Marten

Also known as German weasels, martens love the taste of automotive wiring, engine hoses, silicone, and rubber so much that they're responsible for more than 200,000 insurance claims annually. It's a multimillion-dollar problem, with virtually no soft material safe from the unstoppable teeth of these heat-seeking varmints, which are drawn to the warmth of engine bays and undercarriages.

In Australia, It's the Kangaroo

According to an Australian insurance company's Roo Report, 90 percent of animal-impact claims Down Under are tied to these big-footed bounders. The winter months are the most dangerous for driving, with $20.7 million in damages doled out every year.

In Hawaii, It's Pigs

The island paradise has no native deer, kangaroos, or weasels. Unfortunately, invasive animals—both deer and mongooses—are still a problem. But it's feral pigs that do the most damage, with nearly 400 collisions reported between July 2020 and June 2021.

In Saudi Arabia, It's Camels

Half a million camels live within Saudi Arabia's borders, and wandering strays along unfenced roads are responsible for 97 percent of animal collisions in the country. When a speeding car cuts a camel's towering legs out from underneath it, these desert moose have the alarming propensity to flop onto the hood and through the windshield.

Anywhere You Go, It's Spiders

Okay, it would have to be a terrifyingly large spider to cause collision damage, but in 2013, Toyota was forced to recall 870,000 vehicles because tiny arachnids built sticky webs that blocked an HVAC-condensate drainage tube, leading to water-damaged control modules that posed a risk of explosive airbag deployment (with three confirmed incidents among owners). Two years earlier, Mazda had spider woes of its own. The automaker recalled 52,000 sedans after webs clogged fuel-system vent lines, threatening to crack open gas tanks and cause fires. These critters are such a problem across the industry that Ford even developed a "spider screen" to keep them out of a vehicle's sensitive areas.

Oh, God, Rats Too?

Like the German weasels, rodents and lagomorphs cause extensive damage, with increased insurance claims as populations boom and automotive complexity increases. More delicious wires and hoses mean more snacks and nesting spots for rats, mice, rabbits, and, notoriously in Sequoia National Park, marmots.

Freaks of Nature

Not all animal attacks are recurring. Some are one-off incidents—at least we hope so.

Bye-Bye, Bison: In 2015, a bison charged a couple cruising down a Yellowstone road, resulting in a $2788 repair claim on their Nissan Xterra.

But Was It an AMC Eagle? In the summer of 2021, city officials in Neenah, Wisconsin, discovered an enormous carp lying on the ground beside a severely dented municipal vehicle. Insurance investigators and police concluded that it had likely been dropped by a dive-bombing eagle unable to hold on to a slippery lunch.

Better Check the Trunk: A lovelorn wild elephant went on a rampage in 2016, damaging vehicles parked along a tourist road near a Chinese nature reserve. Reportedly, the car owners "found the experience to be thrilling" and, even better, covered by insurance.

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