I spent a part of this weekend holiday hiking in the northern Ozarks down near the Missouri/Arkansas border.  The variegated mountains with cedar trees and broad shale rock ledges are captivating.  The highlight of my back country trip was the presence of two massive turkey vultures that I encountered in the middle of a gravel road as I rounded a steep bend.


Like roaches and spiders, a vulture’s functional design is just plain spooky.  Those crones had necks like sink pipes.  They wore ill-fitting, black capes of long feathers touching low over their legs.  They had big feet.  They hopped over their carrion, back and forth, oblivious to my approaching car until I was almost upon them.  They refused to move. They were clearly perturbed that I was in their territory.  They stared me down. I stared them down.


When I was almost upon them, they flew to a perch very close to the carcass: one on a fence post, the other in a low tree branch.  Even their sound is unnerving, sort of like a cross between a bark and a loud screech. It was a verbal ‘no trespassing’ sign.  They were not intimidated by a ten foot long moving steel egg on wheels.  That’s confidence, my friends.


When I exited the car for a photo, I saw what they were protecting.  A dead armadillo.  Also in the middle of the gravel mountain road.  Who knew that armadillos had migrated so far north from their Texas roots?  I am still not sure what I found more fascinating – the vultures or the armadillo.  At least I was able to manage a photo of that:


The presence of wildlife presents a brief and interesting auto insurance coverage lesson.  If I had hit those two vultures and the armadillo with my car and suffered damage, I would have a Comprehensive coverage claim for the loss.  Comprehensive insurance protects against physical damage.  It covers physical damage outside the realm of what is covered in Collision.  It is also commonly called OTC – Other Than Collision.

On the other hand, if I had swerved to miss the carrion crime scene in the middle of the road and crashed, Collision coverage would pay for repairs.  Collision coverage pays for accidents involving other cars or stationary objects.  However colliding with an animal is not covered in Collision.  It is the type of accident that is encompassed under the Comprehensive component.

This difference between coverage options is important to know.  Car owners often skimp on Collision coverage if the car is old.  If you do, it is at your own peril for an animal loss.  Armadillos and vultures may not damage a front end, but a deer surely will.  Next time you review your policy and think that Collision is over-priced for your old auto, reconsider the extent of the  risk.  If you live in a state with more deer than people, the risk of a road kill collision may propel you to check the Collision coverage box on your auto application.