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When enjoying outdoor activities, keep safety in mind

Where there is snow and ice, snowmobilers are on the trails and anglers are on the ice.

It’s safe to say that winter has arrived in many parts of Michigan. Winter offers plenty of great opportunities to continue recreating outside.

“This is the time of year when conservation officers see many people eager to kick-off the snowmobiling season, ice fishing and other outdoor winter activities,” said Lt. Tom Wanless of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. “These are great activities that encourage social distancing, but please keep safety in mind. Dress for the weather, check the forecast before you go out and if you’re snowmobiling, please ride sober and at a safe speed.”

Some tips to help prepare for heading outdoors, regardless of the favorite winter activity:

— Wear light layers that can easily be added or removed — it is possible to overheat even during the winter.

— Carry the appropriate equipment for the activity, such as a flashlight, rope, ice picks or ice claws.

— Have spare equipment available in case something breaks.

— Stay hydrated and fueled by bringing water and snacks.

— Recreate with someone else.

— Inform others about where you will be and how long you plan to be gone and schedule check-in times.

— Carry a two-way communication device that receives service in remote areas.

— If not feeling well, don’t go out.

In Michigan, all snowmobile operators between ages 12 and 16 are required to obtain a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile on any trail or public land. Riders can earn a snowmobile safety certificate online at Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling.

The DNR’s Ride Right snowmobile trail safety campaign emphasizes the importance of riding sober, at a safe speed and on the right side of the trail.

If snowmobiling off-trail, stay on public lands, avoiding private property, active logging operations and sensitive areas such as forest plantations; use stock exhausts only; and know where you are going before you go.

Snowmobiling is a fun activity that can be done safely; however, riders should remember that excessive speed is the main cause of fatal and serious injury snowmobile accidents.

Winter 2019-20 saw 14 fatal snowmobile accidents in Michigan, with one fatality recorded so far during the 2020-21 season.

If planning to head onto the ice to fish or ride, conservation officers warn there is no reliable inch thickness test to determine if ice is safe. Ice thickness can be checked with a spud or auger.

“Anyone going onto the ice should use extreme caution,” Wanless said. “Avoid ice that is covered by snow. Snow acts as an insulator and may weaken the ice.”

Ice is often unstable at river mouths or other areas where there are currents present or creeks and streams feeding into lakes.

For more ice safety tips, including what to do in the event of a fall through the ice, go to Michigan.gov/IceSafety.

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