One of the joys of ATV riding is the opportunity to enjoy nature. A lot of the time you can get away from the higher traffic areas where wildlife is more likely to show up. If you are willing to cut the engine for a while and just watch, you may see some amazing things. When you are heading off the beaten path, prepare first by knowing the laws, keeping your ATV shocks and other parts in good repair, and learn what kind of animals to look for.
Despite it's barren appearance, the desert is actually full of life. The easiest to find are, of course, the ones you’d most like to get rid of: bugs. It can be a major nuisance to have flies and gnats buzzing around your head. Sometimes the gnats can bite, and when the swarms get really bad, it can be hard to think about or do anything else. Mosquito bites are one of the biggest drawbacks to the outdoors. Luckily, while your ATV is moving you don’t notice these as much unless you get one in your teeth.
In many desert areas you also find a
lot of spiders and even scorpions. Most species aren't dangerous to
humans, and only a few are deadly. If you're out in the desert, be
sure to wear shoes at night when spiders and scorpions are active.
Always be cautious when moving rocks, branches, or anything else a
scorpion might be hiding under. On the bright side, if you can stand
it, a scorpion is a very fascinating creature to watch.
Birds are one of the most adaptive creatures on the planet. It's believed that birds are actually descended from dinosaurs. In the desert you find large and small birds who have learned to survive by eating seeds and insects, making homes out of cactus, and living on a diet of scavenged carcasses. You can spend a lot of time bird watching alone, and they will still surprise you sometimes.
There are many small mammals in the desert as well. Mice are very common, but they try to stay hidden most of the time. You can also find ground squirrels, chipmunks, and a few different types of rabbits. In soft sand, or snow in the winter, you will find tracks all over the place.
Some of the most intriguing animals in the desert are bobcats and mountain lions. These can be found in a wide variety of habitats, but they are easiest to see in the desert. Mountain lions are incredible creatures. They have been known to jump an amazing 15 feet into the air, and can run up to 50 miles per hour. There are plenty of stories of mountain lions running down bikers or ATV riders who trigger their hunting instinct, but these are just legends. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation there have been only 14 fatal mountain lion attacks in North America in the last 100 years. Just the same, admire these animals from a distance if you see one.
Finally, when we think of the desert, one type of animal inevitably comes to mind: reptiles. Many varieties of lizards, snakes, and even tortoises thrive in hot arid climates. The horned toad, which isn't a toad at all, but a lizard, is a common site in many areas. Snakes can be seen slithering around in search of prey, but like many desert creatures are more likely seen at night. The most important to watch for is the rattlesnake. Fortunately these give a warning when they feel threatened, but it's smart to wear long pants and tread carefully in rattlesnake country. Take some time to learn what to do in case of a snake bite before you go out on your ride.
ATVs are a lot of fun. Riding trails can be a huge thrill, but sometimes taking a break can provide a thrill of its own. Just be sure that the break is on purpose. Keep your ATV shocks, brakes, and engine in good shape. Mother Nature is a lot less fun when you didn’t plan to be stuck with her and the many creatures that share our world.