Women Riders

Beware…Species on the Move!

Written by  April 30, 2005

With the spring season upon us, I’d like to share some tips on how to avoid hitting roadkill when you’re out riding. Sometimes while riding, especially at night, you are so focused on the road that you are not scanning the sides for wildlife. This happened to me last year while we were riding up to Red Lodge, Montana, and it made me realize I needed to be more aware of my surroundings while riding. The unexpected can create a panic situation. If you can anticipate and be on the lookout for moving objects, you are better prepared to avoid a dangerous situation.

It’s fairly easy to swerve and miss a dead skunk in the road, but what about the various animals lurking on the side of the road or in the trees?

Did you know that most cats are hit at night? Cats confuse the beams from the headlights with the vehicle itself. The lights go by them and they think it’s safe to run out. Expect them to make this mistake and you will be prepared to react if they do.

Most dogs are killed while they are chasing something, such as a ball, a child or a cat. When you see anything that a dog might chase enter the road, look for the dog close behind.

Opossums feast on roadkill. A large object in the road at night may be roadkill and an opossum, which may either freeze in your headlights or try to run away. Opossums don’t run very fast, so slow down until you’ve surveyed the situation.

The hardest species to avoid are squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. They are quick and have the ability to rapidly change directions. The best way to avoid one of these animals is to stop and wait until the critter is safely out of the road. If you continue moving, they will continue to assess your vehicle as a threat and may keep switching and reversing course.

Rabbits are most plentiful in lightly wooded areas or alongside brushy ditches from the end of spring to the end of summer. They may be seen either day or night. Chipmunks and squirrels will be on the roads in tree-lined areas after the first snowfall. They are usually out only in broad daylight. Sometimes a quick tap of your horn as you approach may freeze critters out of harm’s way.

If you are riding near wetlands, expect to see young beavers. In spring and early summer young beavers leave their parents and seek their own pond. They move slowly, usually at night and can be hard to see. They may try to cross roads at culverts. You should also be on the lookout for turtles near wetlands. If you see a rounded lump in the road, assume it’s a turtle until you know otherwise.

Deer alert! In spring and summer, deer hide from danger. In the fall, when the leaves are down, they run. More than half of all deer/motorcycle collisions occur in October and November. Many times a rider will slow down for one deer, then speed up and hit another. Or when riding in a group, the first couple of bikes might miss the first deer and then another deer runs out and several riders back will hit it. Deer babies still follow Mama. Mama’s often have two fawns, so if you see one deer, slow down and look for two more.

If you brake too suddenly for a bird flying straight ahead of you, you may take away the push he needs and send him crashing into your windshield. Ease off the throttle and slow down gradually until the bird rises above your windshield or flies away to one side.

Raccoons often travel in family groups of up to seven members. If one raccoon is hit, the rest may stay beside and get hit, too. They also scavenge roadkill. Try to avoid getting their attention, don’t jam on the brakes, and don’t accelerate. Just ease off the gas and cruise by slowly.

Cattle and horses are abundant in rural areas where broken fences are not easily seen from a distance, and even large animals can be unseen as they use dips in the road as crossing points. They are very difficult to see at night, because they tend to be dark, and stand above the driver’s visual focus. Cattle are predictable, and once one member of the herd starts to move in a particular direction, chances are good that they all will. Horses on the other hand are less predictable. Some act like cattle, some bolt like deer. The most important and safest thing to do if you come upon a deer, horse or cow in the road, is to stop as quickly as you can without risking a skid. This allows the animal time to react and move aside, and then proceed with caution.

When a skunk is threatened, their defense is to turn their back and spray. If you see a skunk beside the road, don’t slow down abruptly. The skunk may think you’ve seen him and will attack. Act as if you’re minding your own business and he’ll go on about minding his. In July and August, a skunk may be leading four to seven kittens across the road, and they may trail up to 20 feet behind him. Like deer, if you see one skunk, look for more before assuming it’s safe.

Remember that it’s easier and safer to anticipate animals in the road than it is to miss them once they are in front of you. Be on the alert for sudden movement in roadside grass and shrubbery. Most lines in the woods are vertical, so if you see something horizontal, it may be an animal.

I would like to thank the Animal People for their permission in using the above tips.

If you have experiences with other creatures and would like to share you tips, please let us know and we will pass the information along.


Hi Goldie,
Can you give me any tips as a new rider how to put more accuracy in my turns?

Mary S.
Leawood, KS


Hi Mary,
Great question! Turns were a challenge for me too, but the “look, lean and roll” they taught us in Motorcycle Safety class helped me through. Of course, the more you ride the more skilled you become and your technique improves.

Let’s say you have gotten turned into the lane you want, now let’s add something to help place you where in the lane you want to be.

When you initiate your turn by pushing on the handlebar, use your outside knee and press it against the tank. Using leg tension you have an “anchor for your upper body weight. It will permit you to take a lighter grip on the handlebar. Keeping your grip light will make it easier to roll the throttle. Now, as you begin to turn, push with that outside knee as if you are trying to point it and the bike – where you want it to go, whether it’s down the left, right or middle of the lane.

With enough practice you will know where you want that front tire to go and turns will become easier for you.

Good luck and safe riding!

Goldie Arnold
“Never Ride Faster than your Angel can fly”

Tip of the Month: If lightning starts, take cover immediately. Unlike a car, a motorcycle leaves you exposed to electric shock