Drivers along rural roads between urbanized areas of the East Valley were reminded in the last several days of potential danger to themselves and to livestock grazing in that open range: Cows’ horns don’t honk and horses don’t come with reflectors.
As urban as our communities have become, at our Valley’s edges remain the most modern version of the same interface between “country” and “city” life that’s been part of the local scene for nearly 150 years.
Unfamiliar with the roaming behavior of grazing livestock, those of us from other cities may not be prepared to be instantly confronted with half a ton on four feet quickly emerging from our headlight beams.
The death of a 29-year-old woman and serious injuries to two men last weekend in two separate collisions with animals between Scottsdale and Rio Verde are grim reminders of this lesson. It’s ultimately the duty of motorists to exercise particular care in traveling those roads, marked by yellow warning signs bearing the silhouette of cattle that indicate open range ahead, from the McDowells to the San Tans.
Ranchers also have a responsibility — to protect their livestock investments as well as humans traveling at fairly high speeds near their animals’ grazing areas — to keep fences surrounding their lands maintained.
But Valley urbanites — too many for ranchers to keep total track of — trespass on such lands, cutting down barbed wire or trampling it, all in the name of heading into the desert for recreation. In our increasingly urbanized setting, law enforcement officials need to assign new priorities to patrolling fences, noting parts that are down and looking for trespassers.
Just as many East Valley farmers ultimately found their land was more valuable for homes and businesses than for agriculture, the day may surely come when — with so many new arrivals to Arizona migrating here each week — grazing land between islands of development also will be developed.
Until that day, livestock owners have the right to put animals on their lands with the duty to keep fences in good repair. Meanwhile, motorists need to mind their speed and be more aware of their surroundings when traveling through patches of open range. By doing so, the lives of both humans and beasts will be better protected.