Caution Required When Driving in Elk Country in 2018

Road Crossing

Across America the next generation of Elk were born during the month of June

by Dennis Pirch – Payson, Arizona

Female Elk with CalfA calf elk in the first weeks of its life is extremely vulnerable to a variety of predators and other dangers. A cow elk with a young calf will often find a secluded spot to spend most of the daylight hours in a bedding area only to wander in the period from dusk to dawn.

They travel at this time for food and water which often means numerous roads and highways will be crossed which can obviously be a hazard to drivers as well as the animals. This is especially true this year with the current drought conditions and numerous stock tanks and seeps having gone dry. Water will make them travel long distances and highways and other roads will be crossed.

The embankments along the highways often have the best grasses especially during drought conditions which are an attractant to elk and deer during the reduced light periods. It is safe to say, “expect the unexpected from wild animals” as they could enter the roadway at any time.

Result of hitting an Elk
Result of hitting an Elk

Summer vacationers are in full swing and all are anxious to get to their cabins and homes in the cooler country, in the mountains. It would be wise for all of us to slow down a bit and it might even be necessary to drive at less than the posted speed limit during the reduced light periods and after dark.

Defensive driving means being totally aware of ones surroundings, scanning the highway or road ahead for unusual objects which may become an elk or deer. Distractions by texting or anything else that takes ones eyes off the road can be a costly mistake in vehicle damage, injuries, or worse. The practice of defensive driving is a wise choice, especially in higher elevations where wildlife abounds.

Visitor CenterElk often travel in herds, so if you see one expect more to be close by. When a cow elk is looking across the road it is likely her calf may be on the other side ready to cross. Be extra cautious when the brush or treeline extends almost to the road because elk or deer can all of a sudden just appear from the foliage. The brush or treeline has been cut back on many roads in the area which has reduced automobile collisions with wildlife. After dark, a glimmer of an eye may be all one will see of an animal that may be totally hidden in the brush or trees. Headlights that are on well before dark can aid in seeing the reflective shine of an animal’s eye.

Water is Scarce in During Drought Conditions

Because of drought conditions water is scarce. Elk and deer will cross numerous roads in the reduced light or after dark. It is a common phenomena for large numbers of elk to actually come into the city limits for food and water, in so doing numerous roads are crossed.

Cow ElkAnother safety tip is to have well adjusted headlights on low and high beam. Keeping the lenses clean will also illuminate the oncoming surroundings and can be done with a cleaner and polish specifically for headlights. This could make the difference of seeing an animal on the roadway with a few extra feet of visibility and improve braking ability.

Later in the summer these calves will do their best to stay with the herd as they travel to food and water and will dart out in the road despite highway traffic. The elk herd under the rim is one of the areas most valuable natural resources in drawing tourists, vacationers, and hunters in the fall. Let’s keep vehicle-elk accidents to a minimum which can prevent personal injury, ruined vehicles, and provide for the next generation of trophy bulls in the Rim Country. We all need to slow down and drive defensively in Elk Country.

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