If the conditions of our northern roads are not bad enough all by themselves, we have to contend with a virtual Noah's Ark of animals doing the 20 metre dash across our highways and biways. There seems to be even more than the usual flashing of hooves, paws and wings in front of my fender this year. I wonder if there are any bumper snickers that read: I brake for Deer, Elk, Coyotes, Pheasants, Bears and Moose. On any given day I can and do brake for any of these animals, and on some days all of them. There are rules that apply to each animal, some of which I will generously share with you now.Elk are unpredictable and seldom by themselves. If you see one, you should look for at least three others in the immediate vicinity. Deer that cross a highway should not be written off as finished; sometimes they remember that they forgot their purse or wallet or wonder if they left the coffee pot on and will suddenly whirl about and dash back just as you are gearing up to go again. Be prepared for such indecisiveness.Moose are grouchy, don't be honking at them unless you happen to be best friends with an auto body repair person. Just wait quietly for them to cross (usually in pairs but sometimes solo) and go quietly about your way. Ditto for the bears, only they probably aren't as much of a threat to the body work of your vehicle, as they are to the body of your being. Keep it in the car. Coyotes are difficult to hit, they're usually too smart and quick, but you just never know when one might be having an off day, so be cautious.If the Wiliest award goes to the coyote, then The Top Road Kill and Most Stupid award would have to go wings down to the pheasants of the community. Whether you call them grouse, partridges, or most apt of all, fool hens, they're all pretty much the same bird; and never has a dumber strutted our dusty country roads.While other animals and birds are pretty shrewd about it being in their best interests to get off the road when you drive by, the pheasant will actually hurry onto the road when he sees you coming, so he can get a better look. As you are bearing down on him he holds his ground, puffing up his feathers so as to make himself appear larger than he really is. This is his sole defensive mechanism, and a pathetic one it is. Going from the size of a Kleenex box to that of a toaster does not even the odds as much as the bird might think, especially when a ton of steel is bearing down on him at 90 clicks.Arguably, sometimes it works. The bird marches onto to the road to confront the oncoming traffic, puffs himself up and the vehicle screeches to a halt. Now he's thinking he must look pretty darn scary to stop an animal of that size in its tracks. When you carefully weave your way around him, he is convinced he has you bluffed. You are, after all, sidling past him and then taking off in a great hurry again, are you not?This just reinforces the bird into doing it again. Pretty soon the ego behind the beak is as big as the bird itself. It will jump in the path of anything; bus, truck, tractor, wolf, coyote . . . it's a lucky thing they reproduce so easily or the poor bird would have gone the way of its cousin the Dodo a long time ago. Maybe partridges are simply thrill seekers. I am definitely not a thrill seeker. For me, bungee jumping holds all the appeal of eating live caterpillars and you can rest assured that you will never find my flag flapping about on Mount Everest. I'm the kind of person who gets a kick out of trying out a new brand of bubble bath. A good book, a cup of tea and a blank afternoon is enough to make me giddy. I guess it's a good thing I'm not a prairie chicken. There you go. A person can always find something to be grateful for, if they just think about it for long enough.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from northern BC. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org