OHV adventures in the back country can be exciting and exhilarating. Understanding how to avoid conflict with wildlife is imperative so you don’t get a little more adventure than you bargained for.
Signs of wildlife
Signs of wildlife are your first clue as to what wildlife may be in your immediate area. Often Bear scat will be found on the roads and back country trails, as they traverse terrain within their home range. Take note of the freshness, (Yes, I’m one of those people who grabs a stick to poke wild animal poo) to give you a rough idea of a timeline the animal was in the immediate area. If you see an abundance of scavenger birds together such as crows, ravens, vultures and birds of prey chances are there may be something dead in the area. Bear and Cougar will stash a kill to preserve it for later. They will be around and ferociously protect that kill, so if you notice an abundance of scavenger birds, see or smell something dead covered with leaves and twigs, leave the area. Other signs of bear activity may be ripped up stumps and logs, and claw markings on trees. The best way to survive a wildlife attack is to avoid it all together.
Don’t underestimate wild animals
Most people are aware of bear safety protocol, but what about other wild animals? One of my most frightening wildlife encounters wasn’t a bear or cougar it was in fact, a Moose! Moose will lash out with great force if they feel cornered or threatened, especially if they have a calf. If you encounter a Moose on an ATV Trail stop and give it ample space. Ideally it will wander off into the bush, but sometimes it will try to stay on the road or trail. If you proceed, it will stress the animal out, use up vital calories, and may cause it to feel threatened. Hell hath no fury like a momma moose in the face of perceived danger.
Bear spray flat out works and can be utilized for more wild animal attacks than bears. It’s awesome and effective, but only if it is with you, and you understand how to use it. One of the biggest mistakes OHV riders do is jump off their ATV or side by side to explore the area around them but leave their bear spray in the holster attached to their machine. Women are famous for this especially when nature calls. We like to be as secretive and elusive as possible, and opt for a very remote location to answer that call. Ladies, TAKE your bear spray with you and be prepared to use it if need be! When transporting bear spray, if it is not in a holster, opt for a carrying can that will seal the spray from heat and impact and an unexpected discharge.
Pictured Author Trish Drinkle packing her bear spray on a nature adventure with local youth
Many of us take our dogs on our back country adventures. If you do encounter wildlife, especially a recent sign of a predator put your dog on a leash immediately. It doesn’t take long for a Grizzly bear to realize it is far larger and more powerful than Pedro your chocolate lab. Your dog will instantly want to run to safety (his humans) resulting in a dangerous encounter with an agitated bear heading straight for you. Other wildlife concerns especially this time of year are fawns. Does will stash their fawns in bushes and tall grass to avoid bringing attention to predators around them. Fawns are born without a scent attached to them, and will lay motionless leaving them vulnerable to dogs curious about this creature. Leash up your pups to help keep everyone and everything safe.
Pictured Author Trish Drinkle and her sidekick Pedro with Cycle Works West Polaris Ranger 1000XP “Spartacus”
Many OHV enthusiasts cherish the opportunity to photograph wildlife in their natural habitat. It is important to respect wildlife, and ensure your own personal safety. Please utilize a zoom lens rather than trying to creep up for that epic shot. Bears in particular are a concern, not only for your own safety, but for theirs. Habituation, when a wild animal loses it’s fear of humans and will tolerate them at closer distances can happen when photographers continually encroach on a bears personal space. They need to keep that fear or we’ll see that wild animal walk down a dangerous path, especially if there are food attractants available either by campers or people in residential areas. Many British Columbian towns have seen an abundance of tourists who are eager to take pictures of Grizzly and Black bears. With the influx of humans comes the possibility of habituation, which can be prevented. Appreciate wildlife by respecting their privacy and need to be wild.