Animals Hit on the Snowmobile Trails
Snowmobile season is almost upon us again and I wanted to remind you that small, and some not so small, furry critters like to use the trails a snowmobile leaves behind. Animals are hit on the snowmobile trails every year but there are ways of minimizing the chance you will be the unlucky rider this year. I’ve compiled a short list of “things you can do” to help keep a deer, fox, bird and bear alive. Save the animals (and improve your odds too)!
Things you can do to avoid hitting animals on the trails
- Observe the speed limit if one is posted: Many managed trails have a recommended speed limit and some even post those limits on a bulletin board type map or website where everyone can see it. True, many snowmobiles don’t have a speedometer, but when in doubt slow down just a little.
- Ride according to conditions: White out conditions and low visibility in general can occur at any time and riding more slowly, if at all, is a given during these periods. The speed you should ride at is determined by how much distance you can see in relation to how quickly you will be able to swerve and not make contact. It’s much more difficult AND DANGEROUS to swerve at higher speeds and the damage is often much greater – slow down!
- Report trail kills: If you find an animal someone else has hit on your favorite snowmobile trail there are generally two ways to proceed. THINK SAFETY! If you have a cell phone that works in the area call the conservation officials or trail owners/managers and let them know about the accident so that they can come and remove it. If you do not have a cell phone ride on until you reach the next place you can report the accident and do so immediately.
It is very important that you do not, no matter how tempting it might be, approach the animal or try and “move it aside” because you likely can’t be certain that it is dead or that it has an upset partner nearby. In these situations, after you’ve called it in, stay a good distance away from the animal and off on the side of the trail to help flag other sled riders to the potential danger. While it’s sad to have an animal hit story it’s even worse to have an “animal hit and it kicked my behind” story.
I hit an animal – now what?
This is where planning is critical. Did you tell someone of your expected return time so they will know when you are over due? Did you dress warmly enough? Did you bring a first aid kit with a little bit of food? Do you have a way of contacting someone such as by having a cell phone or other electronic device in your pocket? Did you read the trail reports and ask for advice about the possibility of there being animals in the area? These are all potentially life saving and they happen BEFORE you ride out. Do them!
After the accident, if you can ride on slowly, ride on. Stay on the trail where it’s likely that another rider can see you if your snowmobile should quit working. If your sled is damaged ride very slowly and off to one side of the trail but be ready to abandon the sled at the first sign of smoke or fire. Flag the first rider you see and alert them to your situation and ask for assistance in the form of an escort back to civilization.
These are just SOME examples of things you can do to give yourself the best chances at a good outcome. Having snowmobile insurance, and perhaps even a good personal injury lawyer, might also help but the real trick to surviving when animals get hit on the sled trails is knowing in advance what you will do and being prepared to do it. Have a plan!
Feel free to share that plan in the comments below.