While it may be tempting to go out on an off-highway vehicle (OHV) after a rainstorm when the temperature is cooler and the ground is fresh, doing so can cause long-lasting damage to the habitat. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) advises that OHV operators turn around if they encounter wet and muddy roads.
While the practice of “mudding” — purposefully driving through wet areas, whether it’s a meadow, lakeshore or water tank for wildlife or ranchers’ animals — may be touted as fun on places like social media, it can cause long-lasting damage to the habitat and forest roads.
In addition, when an area is wet, riding can tear up the roads and trails making them impassable for others. Even a lighter-weight OHV with low-pressure tires can cause lasting damage to an area.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, mudding has many negative impacts:
- Rips up native plants — When plants are gone soil washes into nearby streams and lakes, and it creates the opportunity for noxious weeds to move in.
- Compacts soil — Tire tracks create hard soil that keeps water from moving into the ground, and they make it difficult for plants to grow.
- Harms wildlife — When vehicles tear up meadows and wetlands, it removes nesting and hiding cover, interferes with feeding, and may push animals out into areas where they may not survive.
- Smothers fish— Many species of fish and amphibians use gravel to build nests and bury their eggs. Driving through streams destroys these gravel areas.
It’s also a safety issue for riders. OHVs handle differently on wet roads than they do on dry ground, so use caution and drive at slower speeds when roads and trails are wet.
If you see someone mudding, call 1-800-VANDALS. It’s helpful if you can get a license plate number and description of both the OHV and the operator as well as a location of the activity so law enforcement personnel can follow up on the information.
For more information on responsible OHV use or to sign up for a safety education course, visit azgfd.gov/OHV.