Many areas that wildlife are using as a food source and for cover are taken away during the harvest. This disruption causes animals to travel in search of other cover and food. Along with the harvest many animals become very active during this time of year and their movements change dramatically. Many animals are trying to prepare for the cold winter months ahead, young animals of the year search for their own territories, and some become more active because of daylight changes, and breeding seasons.
If you’ve driven around almost any town you have probably noticed the increased amount of squirrel activity and the amount of dead ones hit by cars on our city streets. Squirrels sprint at blinding speeds and stop on a dime, so it’s hard to determine where they are going if you are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Right now juvenile squirrels from this summers’ litters are setting out to find and establish their own territory before winter arrives and they attempt countless road crossings in the process. As you drive the streets give them a brake, after all they are just doing what they instinctively do this time of year, which is securing territories and stock-piling food for the winter months and these young squirrels are just learning about vehicles and they don’t always notice the traffic they may be headed into.
Young raccoons and family groups of raccoons will also be crossing roadways this time of year, as well. These young raccoons are in the same predicament as young squirrels; they don’t know what impact roadways can have on them and many will be hit when trying to cross roadways this fall.
Due to the changing season, harvest, and the need to establish territories, some animals can end up in town during this time of year. It isn’t uncommon to see raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, and other animals in town for these previously stated reasons. Food sources and finding areas to den can be found in town, which may encourage animals to stay.
Because deer are most active during the fall they pose a greater hazard to both themselves and vehicles traveling highways and country roads, especially during October and November.
Deer will have a lot of things to distract them at this time. With harvest activities underway, crop and cover areas that deer are used to are abruptly changing, which in turn drives deer to seek other areas of cover.
Daylight hours become shorter during the fall and the onset of the deer breeding season or rut have all deer moving about. Deer activity peaks each day near dawn and just after dusk.
To avoid deer-vehicle accidents reduce your vehicle’s speed and watch carefully for deer especially near shelterbelts, woodlots, creeks or near standing crops. Early mornings and evening will typically be times deer will travel the most. If you spot a deer, assume there will be others in the same area either ahead of or behind the one you’ve seen. Be prepared to stop suddenly.
Many places where deer are known to travel are posted with deer crossing signs, but the absence of a sign doesn’t mean a deer won’t unexpectedly appear about anywhere along the road, so keep alert.
Deer often seem to be disoriented or confused by a vehicle’s headlights. Some react by freezing in the light, some dart into the path of the vehicle, others bolt away in the opposite direction. Sometimes deer that have just crossed the road ahead of the vehicle suddenly change direction and run back into the vehicle’s path or collide with it. It’s a good idea to honk your horn and flash your headlights to frighten deer away from the side of the road. If there is other traffic on the road, you can activate your emergency flashers and tap your brakes to alert other drivers to the potential danger.
Anticipate the possibility of a deer unexpectedly crossing in front of your vehicle and plan ahead to avoid swerving, turning or braking the vehicle too sharply if a deer suddenly appears.
Deer and squirrels are not the only animals out and about during dawn and dusk. During the fall season, as it begins to be darker later into the morning and night falls earlier, raccoons, foxes and skunks will also be out in full force at the same time as we are all traveling to and from work or school. Be sure to scan the road as you drive, watching road edges for wildlife especially those that border agricultural fields or natural habitats. Not only will this help you to avoid harming or killing wildlife, but it will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play and slowly moving vehicles.
Always assume that animals do not know to get out of your way. Young animals, in particular, do not recognize cars as a threat. Keep in mind that where there is one animal crossing, there may be more — young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a mate. Slow down, especially when it’s dark. Many animals needlessly become victims simply because people drive too fast to avoid hitting them.
Youth mentor hunt
Youth and their parents or family members can sign up for the North Platte Cody Ringnecks chapter of Pheasants Forever’s youth mentor pheasant hunt. The mentored hunt starts with safety and shotgun shooting on Oct. 23, followed by the in-field hunt Oct. 24 in the North Platte area. A mentor hunt is a chance for those with little or no experience to learn more about hunting, including safety, ethics, ecology and conservation in a controlled environment with experienced hunters as mentors.
Firearms, ammunition and orange clothing will be available for use. Residents age 15 and younger do not need a permit. Each mentee ages 12 to 15 will be responsible for having a hunter education card or purchasing an apprentice hunter education exemption certificate for $5 from the Nebraska Game and Parks website at outdoornebraska.org. Parents and family members are invited and encouraged to attend, learn, watch and eat lunch. Mentored hunters must be age 15 or under. This event is free and open to the public but there is limited space for mentees and preregistration is required. Call biologist Andy Moore at 308-530-3671 for more information and to register.
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