Chasing Wildlife

January 30, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Chasing wildlife with motorized vehicles is not only illegal and dangerous, its about as unethical as you can get. Report this type of behavior whenever it is observed.

Chasing wildlife with motorized vehicles is not only illegal and dangerous, it's about as unethical as you can get. Report this type of behavior whenever it is observed.

Survival during a typical Midwest winter is more like rolling with the punches than simply fighting the elements. Give yourself credit for acclimating and changing with the weather.

Generally speaking, in North Dakota we always have – like it or not – a time to fish through the ice. In some years good ice doesn’t form until January and may deteriorate in early March, but hard-water anglers will take whatever the winter provides. This winter we had ice fishing opportunities beginning in late November, which doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

The same can be said for skiing or snowmobiling. Some winters have more snow than others, and when it does come, a lot of folks are out enjoying the countryside on their machines or skis.

At the same time, the more snow, the more difficult the winter for wildlife. Any winter will stress animals to a degree, and animals try to cope with it. If they can’t, they die. Like it or not, it’s a pretty basic wildlife equation.

Some animals such as pheasants will die from exposure. Others, such as late-born deer, may not be able to secure or compete with stronger deer for limited food and will die from starvation. In many circumstances, it’s the smaller or weaker animals that will succumb to winter weather. It’s nature’s circle of life.

Wild animals need good habitat to survive winter. What animals don’t need is any sort of additional stress created by humans. The good news is that our outdoors has plenty of room for both human recreation and wildlife.

Most people who ski or ride snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles for recreation do everything possible to steer clear of sloughs and shelterbelts that give refuge to wildlife. Unfortunately, these law-abiding folks are sometimes cast under the same dark shadow as illegal operators who choose to purposely run down fox, coyotes or deer or flush already stressed critters trying to stay out of the elements.

People who harass animals with motorized vehicles are about the worst possible violator. Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often. In my few years as a game warden I can only remember a couple times when I got tips about such activity. In itself that doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening, but the reports weren’t as frequent as some might think. The worst case scenario is when an illegal operator actually tries to run over an animal with a snow machine. Not the type of person you’d want as a hunting partner.

My challenge to all venturing outdoors the next few months is to give the wild critters some space, even as winter wears on. A late March snowstorm can be just as stressful to animals as an early storm, as they’ve already expounded energy and fat reserves to survive that far.

If possible, avoid slough edges, shelterbelts and trees, and in forested and other areas where trails are maintained, be sure to stay on the trails. If you do flush a deer or furbearer, give them the right of way and carry on.

And finally, if you do see someone intentionally chasing down wildlife with a snow machine, ATV or other motor vehicle, don’t turn the other way. Chances are they’ve done it before and will do it again. Report it to local law enforcement or a game warden immediately.


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