I have just returned from a ski vacation in California. I took my family to Mammoth Mountain for some time away from it all. I was prepared to sit by the fire in our lodge, and to ski in fresh open mountain air. I was wholly unprepared for the plethora of wild animals that were abundant in this area. These animals can apparently end up on the road and bring damage to themselves, and anyone driving, when they present themselves near the road side.
I knew that I might see the occasional tracks in the snow, and wouldn’t it be fun to find out what kind of animal left those tracks? But what we were told by locals was amazing to the extreme. Apparently, it is not unusual to see wild turkey, opossum, beaver, fisher cats, fox, coyote, rabbit, porcupine, skunk, raccoon, and other larger animals running free in that state. And all of these animals pose a danger when they try to cross major roadways, potentially injuring drivers or causing accidents.
There are certainly the traditional sightings of deer, but also it will not be unusual to see moose. We were not 10 minutes outside of the airport before we saw the first “Moose Crossing” sign on the side of the road. Moose are huge animals, and we were warned that even if you are driving an SUV or a truck, you should be wary. Mr. Moose will at times charge cars (usually in the seasons that they mate), and it can be a scary experience. Especially since if Mr. Moose comes a-calling, he will be staring at you literally eye-to-eye, as you sit in your SUV. This would be quite unnerving, and as I said, they are large animals best left alone.
Luckily for us, we were told we would be more likely to see a moose in the back of a pickup, before we see one on the road. Another animal that we were told we could see in the back of a pickup would be bears. New Hampshire has an indigenous bear population, which we hoped was sleeping peacefully in their hibernation dens, at least for the duration of our trip. The locals know though, that they can never leave food out in the spring, not even in a bird feeder. If they do, the bears come out of hibernation (or wherever bears come from) and will rip down the bird feeders looking for food. That is not all that they will rip up. Many families have stories of bears coming to their yards, ripping feeders, hot tub covers, and generally decimating their yards and lower level screens on their homes, all because they are looking for food. They leave large claw marks and horribly scratched tree trunks as their calling card. I can’t imagine how the locals manage living so close to these types of animals, but they do.
In the spring, other animals are seen on the road. There are large land turtles that can live to over 70 years old or longer. This is because they have no natural predators or enemies. Their only “natural” enemy is a car or truck, since they do cross roads frequently and are not known to “look both ways” first. Many residents in the state have caused horrific accidents themselves, on account of land turtles. There was an accident once caused by a woman who stopped her car on a major highway, to escort a turtle across the road. The cars behind her didn’t realize she had stopped, and they proceeded to plow into her car, one by one.
Finally, no matter where you live, it pays to be aware of wild animals that live near open roads. If you maneuver to avoid an animal, realize that there may be cars behind you, so use common sense on the road. Also, if you are traveling and see an interesting animal out of the window, be careful of keeping your eyes on the road. And if you have any interesting stories about animals you have seen on vacation, send us a comment. We would like to hear about it. If you have any other legal questions on the topic, call us at Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or email us at www.ledgerlaw.com.