Encounters with Animals/Insects on Chases

Jim Tang

Jun 22, 2005
Southern California
I just read Mike H's encounter with mosquitoes on June 26 near Aberdeen, and it was somewhat GROSS. It seems this year has many accounts of chasers and animals meeting head-on as well.

Anyways, have you ever encountered mosquitoes, spiders, snakes, etc. during chases? What was your grossest, scariest, and/or weirdest encounter with an animal or insect you have had during a chase? How many animals have you hit, if any?
I've had some close encounters with deer, pronghorns (lots in the TX PH), and a couple of cows. However, wild turkeys seem to be my nemesis. I found out just how much damage they can do when you plow into them at 65mph. This is the result of a flock of the little buggers flying out in front of me...I nailed two of them and resulted in about $2200 in damage including the windshield, front grill/AC condenser, and hood damage.

Well I was over in the same area as Mike H and the mosquitoes didn't bother me. Im very used to have them all over the place as South Dakota is a big mosquito state. Just yesterday the trucks that spray the 'im never gonna have kids again' poison were driving all around town. I have had some close encounters with Deer, really really close. Three days ago I had a bird who couldn't fly quick enough after a cold frontal passage and the heavy wind and hit my antenna and made a 'boing' sound and almost broke it.
Well I was over in the same area as Mike H and the mosquitoes didn't bother me. Im very used to have them all over the place as South Dakota is a big mosquito state. Just yesterday the trucks that spray the 'im never gonna have kids again' poison were driving all around town. I have had some close encounters with Deer, really really close. Three days ago I had a bird who couldn't fly quick enough after a cold frontal passage and the heavy wind and hit my antenna and made a 'boing' sound and almost broke it.

Last year I found a lot of deers in South Dakota running close to the interstate; this year I saw many deers near Kearney NE and some wild turkeys in Kansas :)
In either Chase '01 or '02, Warren Faidley, my cousin Doren and I were parked up somewhere around Shamrock, Okla....just watching the sun set behind a dying tornadic t-storm that was shooting off really sweet anvil crawlers. I had to "p", so I just sauntered off and stood on top of a cattle guard. Somehow, some way....a frickkin' chigger got in underneath my shorts...at about my beltline.
If any of you have had any experience with chiggers....you know that you don't start itching until well after the bite. The horrible thing about chiggers is that they are little mites....and once they bite you they stay alive under your skin and just keep burrowing. The only way to kill them is to put calamine lotion on top of your skin and smother them...and this takes time.
Anyway....this one chigger made such a wicked reaction to my skin and it swelled up so bad...that it actually left a scar. Ohhh...I hate those things.
I've currently got about 2 dozen chigger bites (still marks) over the past two months of chasing/hiking/photography etc. The worst place is on the top of my feet where the majority of the bites exist.

The good news is:

Chigger Myths

Chiggers do not bore into and live inside of our skin. Applying finger nail polish or other household chemicals to red bumps on our skin does not help. They will not burrow deep inside our body and eventually die. By the time your severe itching problem sets in, the chigger is nowhere in sight. Trying to smother a chigger with various products is a total waste of your time and might actually cause more problems.

I guess this woulden't really be considered on a "chase" but rather a day after a chase. David D, Graham B, Shane A, and myself spend a good couple hours near Mulvane, KS last year on June 13th assessing the damage done the previous day. We eventually made our way out to the lake well east of the house that was badly damaged to assess where the tornado had weakened. While out there, we were in a very high weed/grass area where chiggers were im sure very much alive and waiting. Somehow, after finally heading back to the car and taking my shoes off, I began to discover large bites all over both of my feet. I was wearing shoes while out there.. so im guessing they somehow were able to get underneath and bite the heck out of me. Well, a day later, each of my feet had I would say 15-20 LARGE bites.. that itched like you would not believe! It look like I had contracted some sort of disease.. it was really bad! These bites itched for a good few days before finally crusting. The bites were still visible on my for a good 3 months or so afterwards. I have had some experiences with mosquitoes but nothing like this...!
I had a tick attached to the back of my neck after the June 12 2005 chase in Texas. On June 11 2004 in Iowa, the mosquitoes and flies were as Mike described them. I disturbed the grass next to the road to set up my cameras and that set them off big time. They were huge and kept biting despite my heavy coating of OFF. I had to get back in my truck and just let the cameras roll outside, and they were literally swarming the truck, cameras and tripods. There were about 20 of them that got in the truck that I spent the next 8 hour drive trying to get rid of them.

We came within feet of hitting a pheasant in SD on June 7.

I hit a bird near Dumas, TX on June 1 with my antennas, knocking them over.

Also on June 11, 2005 near Fort Supply, OK, Nick, Kurt and I were shooting lightning photos using the rear liftgate of my car as rain shelter. This of course meant that the dome light was on, attracting all sorts of beetles and flying insects. This included a few large brown flying roaches. One was particularly huge and would only come out one time during each night while I was driving. When I stopped to try and kill it, it scurried and hid hopelessly in the depths of the car, only to return again the next night. This went on for 5 days back into WV and I still haven't killed it. For all I know he is still there and will probably re-emerge when I'm on a date or something!
Like Dan, I also encountered a problem with the Texas tick population on the 12th. Found one in my hair on the way home ... and another on my shoulder after I had gotten all the way back to Missouri and changed clothes. Just hoping the second one hadn't had time to attach and give me more than a bite. I hate ticks.

And like Mike H, I was attacked by a literal swarm of mosquitoes on Wednesday in Minnesota (or as I now like to call it "Mosquitosota"). It was during the first tornado and I had the camera on the tripod outside the car when at least 10 to 15 mosquitoes were instantly all over me. When I got back in the car I looked at the windows and they were COVERED in mosquitoes. I couldn't wait to get moving -
Be very careful of ticks as you go farther north.... anyone that lives in MN/WI/ N IL etc. knows about the dangers of lyme disease. The biggest problem is that the ticks are much smaller the farther north you go. Picking ticks off of you after hiking in OK is easy as pie... not so up north.

On June 4 this year in Kansas we hit a turkey at about 70mph, so hard it took the wx-station off the roof and slid it down the back window. Of course my vidcam wasn't on. And the turkey somehow walked away. The biggest dent on Chad's car came from this bird, and being as his car suffered major trauma on May 12 near South Plains, that's saying something.
I nearly hit so many turkeys this season it's not even funny. Chasing the Gage/Jefferson/Washington/Marshall circuit is a good way to hunt turkeys. And on the first day of my "chase vacation" I hit and killed a turtle dove. I hit it in the butt with my car, it left a crap on my windshield, and it died on the road.
saw lots of animals out this year - snakes, roadrunners, deer, pheasant, turkeys, ducks, turtles.

as for animals I hit this year - I hit an armadillo on I-40 in western OK on May 11. Then on June 12 a small bird smacked into my windshield near Paducah TX.

on 5/30/1999 I hit another small bird in western KS, which got stuck in the front of my rental. I have a pic here (WARNING: graphic)

my all-time favorite animal encounter still has to be the massive blackbird evacuation I caught in Enid OK on 9/18/2002
Aaron, that's an interesting quote on chiggers, but I disagree. I too, thought that chiggers burrowing under the skin was a myth, but I got my info off of some "chigger sites" via Google, and still stand by this "myth".
I was married in '77.......and we "honeymooned" in Nebraska to see my kin and my wife's. My wife went to school in Topeka (yes...she was a very-close survivor of the notorious '66 F-5) and we drove down there to see a close bud of hers for the afternoon. I didn't want to sit around and listen to these two gals go down memory lane, so I had them drop me off somplace to fish. It was a beautiful day, and I sat down on my butt to dig for worms. Fast forward..............4-6hrs. later. I was MUNCHED BIGTIME by chiggers all throughout my groin area. I had forgotten about them from when I was a kid in Neb. (we'd moved to Az.) and my honeymoon was totally ruined. I cannot see why God would make such a worthless bug.
The past Aussi chase season coincided with a locust plague.

I drove through several swarms around December. The worst was near a small town called Cumnock, the road in the town was surfaced with a whitish tar/rock. The locusts thought this was great and landed on the cooler surface.

At one stage I had to pull over and extract 2inches of dead locust cover on the radiator.
Speaking of locusts, I remember my Dad telling me that as a kid on the farm in Nebraska..circa the late 1920's-30's, there were locust plagues...and he remembers them literally blackening the sky there were so many of them.


Chigger larvae do not burrow into the skin, nor suck blood. They pierce the skin and inject into the host a salivary secretion containing powerful, digestive enzymes that break down skin cells that are ingested (tissues become liquefied and sucked up).

Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow into the skin, but pierce the skin, (often around a hair follicle) and inject a fluid that prevents blood from clotting.

After secreting digestive enzymes, they suck up liquefied host tissues. They neither suck blood nor burrow into the skin. The rash and intense itching associated with chiggers is an allergic reaction to the mite's salivary secretions.

I would hope that numerous universities Entomology depts. aren't wrong!


BTW... I found this interesting story:
"‘05 Weather Creating Paradise for Chiggers"

I am always finding animals while chasing (or they find me).

I stopped to photograph a cumulus congestus, looked down and saw this critter:


In 2001, while traveling through southwestern Texas, I encountered a plague of large black beetles. There were millions of them.



Bill Hark
I guess I stand corrected, Aaron. But I'll tell you, I have taken a needle and dug away into my skin to eradicate these miserable creatures..and I have found what I thought were remains of smothered chiggers. Possibly I was removing some hardened blackish remains of the substance they leave in you.
Well, I learned something today. Cool.
As me and my dad were driving on Highway 14 to Holyoke on my first chase back ont the 27th of June, we nailed about 8 birds with my dad's 1997 F-150. One of them was a gigantic pigeon that burst into a cloud of feathers when it bounced off the hood. Three got stuck in the grille and I had to pry them off when we got home. We also ran over a large rattler near our house that night. I came within 10 feet of nailing a doe just over a hill the first night I had my permit last January and a few years back a hawk flew into my mom's windshield. Didn't do any damage but it startled her so bad she almost wrecked the car.
Animal "Rescues" During Storm Chases

After hurricane "Frances" in FL ... Baby squirrels brought to animal control facility after tree they were in fell...


The same for baby sea turntles crossing the road after a hurricane storm surge retreats...


On a scarier note, less than 10 feet away from me in the FL everglades while chasing summertime thunderstorms (Yikes!)...


Even worse, the damage to Amos Magliocco's 4 Runner from an un-avoidable deer out of a ditch enounter (BAM!)


Respect wildlife, just like you respect storms!
Guess I have a tendency to attract critters wanting a ride to other places and this seems to usually occur in Oklahoma. Several years ago on return drive from Central OK chase was near Pauls Valley when a pair of ticks decided to move from my head by crawling down my neck. Managed to capture and remove from vehicle. Most interesting encounter was in 2003 on drive home from a chase in, none other than central OK. Not sure where I acquired it, most likely during either sunset photo shoot on side of dirt road south of Chikasha or at Arbuckle rest area while videotaping lightning, but just north of Marietta had my right hand resting on my leg when felt something crawling onto my fingers. First thought was grasshopper, but soon discovered a scorpion perched on my fingers; totally relaxed and non-threatening position. I let remain there until rest stop near Gainesville, TX; whereby, took 10 minutes or so to finally coax out of vehicle. Last year hit a large bird between Throckmorton and Graham that knocked passenger side mirror out of mounting.
A couple of years back, I took out a pretty big turkey in Texas. Actually had to duct tape the parking light and grill to finish the chase. Didn't keep the bird.