A few summers ago, the squirrel roadkill situation was out of control.

Remember a couple years ago, it seemed everywhere you went, you just saw dead squirrels littering the roadsides. Half the time, I didn't know whether to have a bit of a laugh about it, or whether I should cry deep tears of mourning, for what felt like an absolute squirrel-pocalypse.

Read More: In Maine, These are the 5 Most Dangerous Roads You can Travel

Not to mention, I think I personally hit three squirrels that year. Now, I'm an animal lover. Generally speaking, I'd rather roll my car over, than inconvenience an animal. So to hit one, it really bothered me. I get it, it's the nature of the world. But then I read online that it wasn't my imagination. There was a reason there were squirrels everywhere.

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Squirrel baby-booms are caused by acorn "baby booms".

Photo by Joвана Младеновић on Unsplash
Photo by Joвана Младеновић on Unsplash

So occasionally, an occurrence happens with certain types of trees, called a mast year. When this happens, circumstances present themselves that cause these trees to produce huge amounts of fruit or nuts. And it's basically a trickle-down affect from there. There's an abundance of food, and that turns into a lot of baby animals.

Red Squirrel Leaking Sap in Spring

When there's less food, there's less babies. We're boiling this down quite a bit here, but it's the basic explanation. If you make animals fat, dumb, and happy... They're going to make lots of little baby animals. When mast years happen, this is what turns into squirrel carnage the following summer.

Photo by Yuriy Mayatnikov on Unsplash
Photo by Yuriy Mayatnikov on Unsplash

How long does the boom last?

Well, it seems to balance itself out from year to year. Next year, the trees could under-produce significantly, and that will cause the population of squirrels, etc. to wane and steady itself. These mast years happen every 2-5 years in Maine, so from time to time we'll definitely experience these periods of intense squirrel mortality.

Read More: Here's Why Lines on Maine Roads are so Hard to See in Winter

But rest assured, if there's any slightly morbid silver lining to this, it's that if there's a lot of squirrels being hit by cars following a mast year, there are still lots of squirrels that aren't being hit by cars. We're never in any danger of squirrels becoming endangered in Maine. The acorns will probably disappear before the squirrels, hahaha.

Here's your odd animal question for the day, answered...

Why do giraffes have long necks? Answers to 25 animal evolution questions:

Stacker curated a list of 25 animal evolution questions and answers to explain some scientific mysteries, from why giraffes have such long necks to how ants can carry 50 times their body weight. 

Gallery Credit: Stacker

Quiz: Do you know your state insect?

Stacker has used a variety of sources to compile a list of the official state insect(s) of each U.S. state, as well as their unique characteristics. Read on to see if you can guess which insect(s) represent your state. 

Gallery Credit: Andrew Vale

LOOK: Here Are 30 Foods That Are Poisonous to Dogs

To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

Even with all of these resources, however, the best cure for food poisoning is preventing it in the first place. To give you an idea of what human foods can be dangerous, Stacker has put together a slideshow of 30 common foods to avoid. Take a look to see if there are any that surprise you.

Gallery Credit: Rachel Cavanaugh

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