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 and go deeper into the forest 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.

The forest is 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. 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.

Small mammals live all over the forest, but they try to stay hidden most of the time. Many are nocturnal, so you may not know they are there until they nibble on your snacks in the night. A mouse will gnaw right through the bottom of a tent if there’s food out or if you cover its burrow. Be sure to check for signs of wildlife when you set up camp. You and the animals will be much happier if you don’t get in each other’s way.

Squirrels and chipmunks are a little more common, but they will more likely be heard than seen. In some campgrounds, however, they’ve learned that people mean food, so they’ll come out to beg. It’s important to be careful though, because even these adorable little guys will bite if they feel threatened.

If you are camping, always cover your food at night. Food will attract all sorts of things that you’d rather not have in camp. Raccoons are very intelligent, and will go to great lengths to get a free meal. They are also very vicious, and often carry diseases. Skunks are a little more timid, but they will still sneak in when it’s quiet, and you don’t want to surprise a skunk!

Then of course, there are bears. When you go for a backcountry ride, find out beforehand if you are going into bear country. Take extra precautions with your food if there is even a chance a bear might be around. If you are lucky enough to see a bear on a ride, keep your distance, especially if there are cubs, and take a picture. It will be a great memory, as long as it has a happy ending.

If you are riding out into the forest, there is a good chance you are either hunting or scouting. Even if you aren’t though, watch for deer and elk. Like most animals, they will run away at the sound of a motor, so it may be worthwhile to stop and watch from time to time. If you run into a moose though, be careful! These are the largest animals you are likely to see, and also the most aggressive and dangerous.

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.