Beware: Animals on the Trails!
14 Mar 2014
By David Scorer
Is it fair to get angry at wildlife for straying on to our bike trails? Maybe in the backcountry it’s expected and you wouldn’t think twice about it, way out in the wilderness, or even just public access woods and hills where we go ride. Can’t very well get mad with the critters given that we’re encroaching on their territory! But at a bike park? With purpose built, dedicated mountain bike only trails - isn’t that a little different? Can’t we ask animals to stay off - I mean don't they read the signs?!
Last year at Kingdom Trails in Vermont, I nearly had a very nasty accident with a squirrel (nasty for him at least!). I swear it was the little dude off the Ice Age movies; he had finally caught his acorn and decided to eat it on my trail! Now I accept we can’t clean the woods of squirrels, chipmunks etc, nor do I want to. But there are bigger things on the loose...
A couple of years ago it could have been significantly worse. About halfway down the L’Encape Trail at Les Gets Bike Park in France, the route leaves an open meadow and dives in to woods, with a pretty technical roots section that you have to hit fast. Right there in the middle of the trail, stood broadside on, was a large cow, happily chewing at the grass and oblivious that he was blocking a trail at one of the biggest bike parks in Europe! Given that I was going pretty quick to clear the roots, I was forced to take evasive action and bailed into the trees off the side of the trail; far better than slamming into the side of this thing and incurring it’s wrath! Turns out the land that the trails cross is still farmer owned, so this is a hazard that is ‘tolerated’! Now is that right when you pay for your lift pass? You can be prepared for other riders, but cattle seems unfair!
And then there’s the classic ‘bear’ problem at Whistler, and a few other bike parks in BC actually. This is trickier - we are most definitely the invaders in this case, they were there first, and now we want to be there as we have far more fun that they do. I mean, they spend most of the day just eating to build bodyweight for the winter. I love a good feed as well, but I have other things to do, and one of those is hitting the trails. So it would be nice if they shuffled off up the hill and didn’t scare the crap out of me when I’m playing on A-Line. Just to illustrate the potential dangers of mixing wildlife and mountain bikes, check out this video of Team Jeep rider Evan van der Spuy being T-boned by an antelope during a race through the savannah of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa! Scary stuff…
We’re a long way from home in this example, but that doesn’t mean it couldn't happen at a bike park, and given that you pay for a pass you could be forgiven for expecting clear trails. Animals are unpredictable, and bikers move fast. So is this an accident waiting to happen…? Do we all need to rant a little at the importance of keeping the big beasts off the trails? As for the little one’s, well they can take their chances!
Finally, it’s a tenuous link as it’s not even mountain biking, but it’s an awesome video! A crossover sport for many of us, motocrossers can have similar wildlife issues when out on the trails and it looks like some threats just don’t back down! Watch this original and then check out the follow-on video where riders go back for more and the animal itself gets a GoPro!