As spring approaches, a senior driver’s thoughts turn to…Wild life. Yes, it’s that time of year, when hibernating animals awaken, and almost all animals are bearing their young. Here in lies the potential for disaster. Most animals will chase away their offspring after 18-24 months so they can properly care for their newborns. Moose, deer, caribou and elk typically chase the older calves off in March or April in anticipation of new calves, while bears tend to chase off the older cubs in late May or early June. When adolescent animals are first on their own, they are often frightened and confused as they adapt to the world alone. If spooked, they will bolt, but which way they will bolt is impossible to predict. They may bolt into the bush, directly into your path, or directly into the side of your truck. A moose hit will likely put your truck into the shop for a number of weeks. Older, more mature animals, with more experience in the wild are leas likely to be spooked and bolt, but it does happen. If you do see a female moose, caribou, elk, deer, etc, be on the lookout for a baby following along close behind. For a baby, crossing the road is a daunting challenge, and they may be hesitant, or get part way across, then bolt back the way they came. Just be patient, and watch nature take care of itself. Deer are particularly dangerous, as they are very quick and nimble, and have been known to try and leap over a truck, only to be hit by the windshield. Again, be careful if you see a deer, as they travel in herds, and there will likely be 5 or 6 fawns.
Bears are another story for a couple of reasons. For new comers to Canada who are unfamiliar with bears, cubs are born in January during hibernation. The female bear starts hibernation alone, and wakes up with 2 or 3 cubs totally dependent on her. As would be expected of a carnivore, bears are ruthlessly protective of their young. Hitting a bear is something to be avoided if at all possible. Due to their relatively small size, and their solid body mass, you don’t so much hit and push them out of the way, as you just roll over them, and they usually will cause the truck to roll onto it’s side. If you do hit a cub, or even an adult, do not stop if you can help it. An injured bear, or worse, another bear who has just seen one of her cubs killed is a very dangerous animal. They have the power and the claws to rip the door right off the truck as if it was made of paper.
Other animals to be aware of during spring are porcupines, also known as “self propelled pin cushions”. The danger from these is pretty self explanatory.
Another animal that can cause an issue for drivers is the beaver. As the babies are chased away, they find their own streams and creeks, and start building dams. When they build them too close to the highway, the highway can become flooded, or even washed out.
So as we move on into the spring and summer months, let’s all keep an eye out for the wildlife during it’s most vulnerable, and potentially danger times…