When a sparrow falls ….

I don’t think there is a single person amongst us who cannot claim to having not seen a dead animal lying on the road. But how many of us can vouch for seeing one of those ‘dead animals’ that we drive past, actually being alive, and consequently, then stopping the vehicle to take a look. Often, it is unsafe to do this, as there are other cars around, and we may create further road incidents.

The following three cases report on the remarkable resilience of wildlife.

A European Swallow was hit and killed on the road. Here, the photographer reports (rather dramatically) on what the mate then did.

A female European Swallow is injured by a car as she swooped low across the road. The male was seen attempting to feed her whilst on the road. Despite his efforts, she died. He then continued to sit by the body, as if chirping out his grief.

A coyote was hit by a car at 75 mph, embedded in the fender, road for 600 miles – and SURVIVED!

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75 mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on. They didn’t realize this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run. Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender – and very much alive.

Daniel and Tevyn East were driving at night along Interstate 80 near the Nevada-Utah border when they noticed a pack of coyotes near the roadside. When one of the animals ran in front of the car, the impact sounded fatal so the siblings thought there no point in stopping. “Right off the bat, we knew it was bad,” Daniel explained. “We thought the story was over.” After the incident around 1am, they continued their 600 mile drive to North San Juan – even stopping for fuel at least twice. But it was only when they finally reached their destination at 9am did they take time to examine what damage they may have sustained. Daniel saw fur and the body inside the grill, and assumed it was part of the coyote – it didn’t register it was the whole animal.

Daniel got a broom to try and pry the remains out of the bumper and got the shock of his life. “It flinched,” Tevyn said. What Daniel spotted as he bent down to inspect the damage to his car was the body of the coyote poking out through the radiator. As the animal struggled, wildlife protection officials put a loop around its neck to prevent it from further injuring itself.

The front of the car is completely taken apart as the coyote then wriggled free. The coyote survived with just some scrapes to its paw.

And then to our final story that involves a Pearl Spotted Owlet.

Whilst driving my roadkill transect the other day, I spotted a bird roadkill lying in the middle of the road. On getting out of the car to try and identify the bird, I noticed it was still moving. I picked it up and saw it was a Pearl Spotted Owlet. Whilst fairly common, it is not always easy to see these beautiful birds, mainly because of their small size and being nocturnal.

I held it in my hand, not feeling very optimistic about its survival. Very often, many animals sustain internal injuries from being hit by cars and therefore do not survive. Giving it the name OW, I contacted a bird expert who had experience with bird roadkills. He suggested monitoring OW’s progress over the next 24 hours and if he had sustained major injuries, he would most likely not survive the night.

OW looked to be concussed as he was slightly dazed, but he soon dug his sharp talons into my hand as he started to revive. He was very inquisitive about his surroundings and attempted to fly. He fluttered briefly over the ground, but couldn’t gain any height. Whilst both wings looked intact, one could see a small bleed near the top of one wing, which suggested a break. OW is continuing to improve and is attacking food with relish – we must very soon attempt to release him or alternatively give him to a rehabilitation centre. Again, despite the tragedy, it is a privilege to be so close to one of these amazing birds – to see its beautiful feathers, its piercing yellow eyes, and its feisty character to survive.


About wendy collinson

Originally hailing from the UK, Wendy gained her Bachelor of Education in 1990, and spent 15 years teaching Physical Education in London to high school students. She moved to South Africa in 2005, beginning work as a research assistant with large carnivores, working on research projects initiated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Wendy’s education background has stood her in good stead as a tour guide, since she believes in an interactive approach, engaging guests in specialist carnivore research tours. In addition to her research and tours, Wendy is also the main organiser of the aptly named “BIKE4BEASTS” mountain bike race, organised annually to raise funds for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (www.bike4beast.coza) Wendy is a field worker with the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Transport Programme. She recently completed her Master’s degree at Rhodes University, Grahamstown South Africa, which examined the impacts of roads on South African wildlife.
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One Response to When a sparrow falls ….

  1. Heather Watridge says:

    Wendy sounds like a wonderful person Keep up the wonderful work.

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