Riding on the Wild Side

Road hazards come in various shapes and sizes. Some are stationary, while others seem to be out to get you like a laser-guided missile. In addition to heavy traffic and poor roadways, there are many obstacles to navigate. In the past month I’ve encountered a stray car bumper, a couch, fallen trees, giant potholes, flooded roadways, and an abundance of wildlife. Wildlife is especially concerning because it’s so unpredictable.

On a motorcycle trip to Maine, I was surprised by the number of warning signs posted along the roadway about moose. I don’t know much about moose other than they are big. Really big! Sure enough, I had a moose encounter riding through the backwoods of Maine. It was not a close-call by any stretch of the imagination. I saw it from a distance and was able to keep an eye on it as I rode past. I was even fortunate enough to capture it on my helmet cam!

As much as we complain about other drivers, you can usually predict with some success where a car to go. Drivers usually stay in their lane, and even while looking at their cell phones, they generally travel in the proper direction. Wildlife, on the other hand is unpredictable at best, and is often unseen until a collision or near-miss.

Deer are common in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area where I live. This past year has proven to be especially problematic. I’ve seen a lot of deer near the roadway and have had several near-misses. There’s not really much you can do. Deer don’t play by any set rules. They seem to come from nowhere and dart across roadways unexpectedly. They do not attempt to avoid vehicles, and sometimes run full-speed into the side of a moving vehicle. While no picnic in a car or truck, it’s especially problematic for motorcycle riders.

There are products that claim to deter deer and other wildlife. While claims of success are dubious at best, some people swear by these and say they’ve never hit anything while they’ve had a deer whistle mounted on their bike. That may be true, but I’ve never hit a deer while riding naked, so there’s that. (It should be noted that I’ve never actually ridden a motorcycle naked, and it is not on my list of things to do!!) Common-sense tips for riding in deer country are posted in many places online. You know the routine: slow down, pay attention, blah, blah, blah. None of that is bad advice, it’s just that you can do all those things and still have problems. The only sure-fire way to avoid a wildlife collision is to stay home!

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