A wildlife encounter everyone wants to avoid

While you may hope for a glimpse of wildlife during your visit to the Grand Canyon, there’s one animal encounter you don’t want — one between your vehicle and several hundred pounds of animal.

Wildlife-vehicle collisions are not uncommon in northern Arizona, where long, lonely stretches of road cut through miles of prime big game habitat. In fact, animals are one of the major causes of accidents in Canyon country.

While mule deer, mountain lions, javalina and coyotes are common here, emergency workers respond to more collisions with elk than any other animal just because of the nature of the beast. Grown females average about 650 pounds while bulls can weigh well over 700, rendering a car undriveable.

Fortunately, most vehicle occupants suffer relatively minor injuries. The most common consequences of a direct hit, aside from the trauma and the possibility of being spattered with something nasty, are bruising from the impact and some cuts from flying glass if the animal comes up over the hood and into the windshield.

The bottom line? Remember you’re not only sharing the road with other vehicles but also with large animals that don’t realize you’re heading their way.

Avoiding a run-in
• While there are many road signs warning to be alert for deer and elk, don’t assume that these are the only places you’ll find them. Through the spring, as they migrate to higher ground,  they can be quite mobile. They also tend to congregate on roadsides where runoff makes for green forage.• Drive at a safe speed, no more than 90 kph or 55 mph in good conditions, more slowly in snow or rain.

• Stay alert and scan both sides of the road for signs of wildlife.

• Be especially wary around sunset to midnight and in the early dawn as this is when animals are most active.

• Don’t expect animals to act rationally. They may not move for oncoming headlights or honking horns and if they do try to run, it may not be in the right direction to get out of the way in time.