From squirrel sabotage to accidental stowaways...
Andrew Wilkins, 25, an estate agent from Reigate in Surrey, and his girlfriend, Jen, 26, flew out of the UK on 20 November to travel around Vietnam, Thailand and India for five weeks. While they were away, Andrew left his Volkswagen Golf at Jen’s father’s home near Crawley in Surrey. When they returned on 23 December, he was dismayed to find the gearstick of his car, which he paid £10,000 for in 2014, was stiff and changing gear was difficult. On 29 December, he took the car to the PTA garage in Oxted, Surrey. It turned out that a squirrel (or squirrels) had turned it into a winter store for hundreds of acorns. The glove compartment and gearbox were full of acorns, and there were more acorns, as well as a dead rat, under the bonnet. “I feel bad,” said Andrew. “I ruined their winter and all their hard work”. Removing nuts and rodent took two hours, for which the garage charged £168. independent.co.uk, 2 Jan 2018.
• A koala survived a 10-mile (16km) journey in Australia on 16 September, stuck under a car until the driver stopped in Adelaide and heard the distressed animal’s cries. “Early in his journey an oncoming driver flashed his lights at him and so he thought there must be something wrong with his car,” said Jane Brister, who was called out from Fauna Rescue. The driver pulled over, but couldn’t find anything in the dark. The female koala had crawled into the wheel arch of the four-wheel drive vehicle while it was parked in the hills on the outskirts of Adelaide. The crew of a passing fire engine stopped and took off the wheel so that Ms Brister could coax out the petrified animal. “[At first] I could really only see her face and one paw,” said Ms Brister. “She was pinned behind the wheel, but fortunately not [caught] in the axle. It took a lot of time and patience to get her out.” The koala escaped with a
few cuts and singed fur, and was taken to a nearby vet. She was dubbed Kelli, the name of one of the firefighters who came to her rescue. After being cleaned up and monitored for a week, she was released back into the bush. She was last seen dozing in a eucalyptus tree. There are as few as 100,000 koalas left in the world. BBC News, 16 Sept; Sky News, 17 Sept; Times, D.Mail, 18 Sept 2017.
• Another koala was named ‘Bear Grylls’ in 2015 after it became wedged in the grille of a vehicle travelling at 100km/h (62mph) in the Adelaide Hills. Loren Davis saw the koala in her headlights, but was unable to stop in time. She only discovered it was trapped in the grille when she got home 10km (six miles) away. It only suffered minor abrasions. Three weeks earlier, another koala was caught by the head in a car grille in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, and escaped unscathed. Apparently, koalas often display a casual disregard for vehicular traffic. ABC Radio (Adelaide), 24 Sept 2015.
• When mechanics at an auto repair shop in New Hampshire opened the bonnet of a car to do an oil change, they were confronted by an Eastern screech owl sitting on the engine. “We figured he was either seeking warmth or chasing a mouse,” said a police officer. The police department named the owl “Shazam”, probably for the bird of prey’s ability to suddenly appear like some sort of magic trick. According to Audubon.org: “Despite the name, screech-owls do not screech; the voice of this species features whinnies and soft trills.” Police said the bird was “very friendly” and was “easily handled”. Because the owl appeared lethargic, it was transported to “On The Wing,” a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Epping, New Hampshire. People responding to the police department’s Facebook post thought the whole situation was a hoot. “That’s a real case of Hoo-Dunnit,” one person wrote. Boston Globe, 16 Dec 2017.
• A rabbit ended up 12 miles (19km) from home after hopping on a car and getting trapped inside the engine. Residents spotted the pet and left a note on the windscreen of the parked car to warn the driver. However, the motorist spoke little English and couldn’t understand the message. He only realised there was a rabbit on board when he got home. He discovered the animal stowed away under the bonnet and called in the RSPCA. The charity’s Manchester and Salford branch appealed on Facebook for the owner to claim the pet, which was thought to be between four and five months old. D.Express, 12 Aug 2017.
• A buzzard was hit by a van and survived for 12 hours with its head stuck in the front grille. The bird of prey was discovered by workers at a car rental company in Swindon, Wiltshire, after the driver of the rented Ford Transit failed to spot it wedged in the bodywork. Realising it was still alive, they took the grille part to free it. It had a broken wing and dislocated leg, but after being taken to a vet, it was set to make a full recovery. Western Daily Press, 20 June 2016.
• A bear took a ride on top of a garbage truck in New Mexico in late July and travelled for at least five miles (8km) on the vehicle before arriving at a site where the Santa Fe Forest Service kept a firefighting helicopter, where it made its escape up a tree. Western Daily Press, 5 Aug 2017.
• Georgie Knox from Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, found a coyote she had hit was embedded in the front of her car, but still alive. A pedestrian flagged her down after spotting the North American wild dog, made famous by the Wile E Coyote character in Road
Runner cartoons, wedged in the grille. It was unhurt, despite travelling 20 miles (32km). It was checked by vets before being freed back into the wild. Sun, 14 Sept 2017.
ABOVE: Kelli, the female koala who survived a 10-mile ride clinging to a wheel arch. BELOW: Shazam the screech owl.
ABOVE: ‘Bear Grylls’, the lucky koala who was hit by a car doing over 60 miles an hour but escaped with only minor injuries.