Close Encounters of the Furry Kind

It seems everyone has a story about a nasty dog. Lately, I’ve been having more encounters on my bike with the smaller critters of the animal kingdom.

The squirrels I’m getting used to. I frequently ride a paved rail trail through my county, and the little buggers seem to enjoy hanging out at the side of the trail and then making a break for it once you’re right on top of them. Sure, go ahead and laugh, but I swear they’re playing chicken. Most have just been close calls, but this past Spring one darted between my friend’s tires…and right under my front wheel. There, he somehow got picked up by my wheel and flung into my left shin, before shaking himself off and running away. Since then, numerous friends of his seem to be taunting me on nearly every ride.

Hey, just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me…

Today’s encounter, however, takes the cake. This morning I was out at a local state park, churning down a flat road empty of traffic. On the opposite side of the pavement I spotted two raccoons, busily dealing with something at the edge of the blacktop. I saw them at the last second, but quickly rationalized I was fine. I was almost past them, moving at about 20 mph, and they were on the other side of the road, distracted. I’d be gone before they had a chance to flinch. But that’s when one of the pair suddenly decided to channel Usain Bolt and sprint at world-record pace across the entire width of the road…and right into my path.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m an animal lover. But I’ve heard many a story of people flipping their cars, or yes, crashing their bikes, trying to avoid an animal at the last possible second. And long ago I decided that in these unfortunate, but unavoidable situations, I’m looking out for my best interests. That’s why I didn’t try any crazy last-second swerve that would have left me skidding across the road, or didn’t slam the brakes and eat it over the handlebars. Instead, I just kept my bars pointed straight, held on for dear life…and ran right over him.

Let me tell you, hitting a large raccoon at 20 mph…with your front tire…is a thrill I don’t care to repeat. It left me briefly careening out of control, swearing up a storm…but miraculously able to keep upright and ride away. Sure, I feel bad. No one, at least no one normal, wants to harm an animal. But I would have felt worse had I gotten seriously injured trying to avoid him. I turned back to see the raccoon make his way off the road and into the tree line, but he was obviously hurt. I stopped at the park office to report what happened in the hopes a ranger might find him. But as I walked out, those bad feelings were tempered by the comments from the woman behind the desk: “I’m glad you weren’t seriously hurt.”

Believe me, so was I.


  1. says

    I regularly sneak up on unsuspecting animals. The bikes are very quiet and still quite fast and they are often surprised to see me. Today I passed within 15 feet of a deer who was grazing in some tall grass. Now THAT would have been a collision!

    Glad you’re ok.

  2. says

    Wow, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to stay off the brakes. I’ve had similar experiences with deer. They make me very nervous because I know I would lose in that confrontation. Wild animals are very unpredictable and I am very alert when I see them. I also slow down to a more survivable pace.

  3. Keith says

    Raccoons are nasty critters masquerading as cute, but glad you didn’t hit it. I hit a possum on my commute ride a few years ago, and it was the worse crash I ever had. Left me with a massively bruised hip and a cracked bike helmet. It was more like hitting a medium sized dog, a very painful encounter!

  4. Steve B says

    I had a similar encounter a couple years ago and reacted the same way. Going about 28 mph down a hill and a groundhog ran in front of me. Didn’t think they moved that fast. I just held on tight and went right over him. No crash. Looked back and he was already gone off the road. Ironically, a week later I hit a pothole on the same road, went off the bike, and slid along the road on my thigh for a while. Karma??

  5. Karen says

    On my second night riding home from work, 2 baby bunnies frantically scampered and paniced in front of me and my reaction was to swerve and I nearly got hit by a car coming from behind. It was a scary situation and my reaction to it scared me as well but the thought of running over baby bunnies was morbid. If it happens again, I’ll have to take your stance … better them than me.
    They’ve since put in a paved bike path along this road so at least I’m off the street when I ride. Now when I’m cycling along, I ring my bell periodically letting all of “them” know I’m coming. I regularly come across muskrats, skunks, cats, rats, ‘coons and bunnies on my commute to work.

    It’s good that you came out of it ok. :)

  6. says

    My close encounter was with the skunk kind…Twice. Both times I was lucky enough not to get sprayed. The first skunk was a young one that bounced around in front of me like a ferret then pointed his butt the other direction. The second was an adult that I nearly hit as it ran across the trail. I hope there is not a third time, but most likely there will be. I just hope they have bad aim.

  7. Andy says

    I live I’n Duluth mn and ride helmet less and brakeless bmx. What’s fun without some danger. I’ve had many close calls with animals but besides getting really close nothing bad has happened yet. Birds and deer are the only ones Im worried about

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