GUEST - Warning Wildlife by Using Your Horn

Deer Crossing SignMulti-lane highways are not wildlife viewing areas. Using them as such puts the animals, yourself, and other road users at significant risk.

Traveling north by motorcycle from Vernon around 6:20 am Saturday morning. Near the weigh scales, 90 km/h zone, 2 lanes northbound, with concrete barrier adjacent to the left lane. I noted an SUV in front of me in the right lane slowing, and then stopping.

There was a young deer, very nice 4 point buck, on the road in the right lane, so it was reasonable for the driver to slow and stop. However, as I came to a stop behind the Subaru Outback, reluctant to immediately go around to the left in case the deer went that direction, I could see that the deer was facing the ditch on the right side, and the driver and passenger were enjoying the close up encounter with wildlife, oblivious to the risk in their stationary position on a busy multi-lane highway

I also noted two vehicles approaching from the rear, one in each lane, at or near the speed limit.

My training and experience is that, once wildlife, or cattle, are facing away from the road, we should use our horn to scare them from the roadway. For the safety of the animals, the best strategy is to make the highway as inhospitable as possible. Passively viewing animals on the road is equivalent to leaving garbage out in bear country, or feeding waterfowl across the road from the lake. "Killing with kindness" comes to mind.

Recognizing the obvious risk of remaining behind the vehicle, I used my horn to inform the driver of my intent to pass on the left, and verified that there was still time to change lanes and avoid the truck approaching in the left lane. The horn of my motorcycle, feeble as it is, was sufficient to startle the deer, and he bolted for the ditch and brush on the right side of the highway.

As I continued on, back in the right lane, I contemplated that the driver and passenger of the Subaru may have been offended that I sounded my horn and ended their wildlife encounter. However, I was also mindful that the "emergency" was now over, and it was no longer safe, nor legal, to remain stopped on the traveled portion of the roadway.

Please, for the sake of the animals, and for the safety of road users, do what you can to make the highway an inhospitable place.

This article was contributed by Kim Young, Chief Instructor of the V-Twin Motorcycle Riding School in Kelowna.

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