It is really fun to be outdoors. You gaze up at the sky to see its spectacular beauty and around you to see the towering trees. When you have friends with you, it is even better. Sometimes those friends, though, are animals. That, to be frank, are not all that friendly at times. Knowing wild animal safety tips and advice to follow is critical.
The Top 10 Tips for Animal Safety While Hiking
If you are looking for general guidelines to follow, then these are it. They will help you deal with your neighborhood squirrel or even a black bear. Keep to these rules and you will be sure to stay safe when you are outdoors.
- Be aware. Most daily life is distracting. There are phones that buzz, flashing bill boards, and constant email. Life is structured like a bowling lane with bumpers. When spending time outdoors, you will see a noticeable contrast between the two. You have to use your eyes, ears, and senses. It is essential.
- Let the bells toll. When hiking, animals are less likely to bother you if you make loud noise. You can do this by talking to your friends while you hike or even putting some bells on your backpack. Clap your hands and stomp your feet when you cannot see the around the turn in the trail or you are near water.
- Stay on the trails. I am not going to lie. It can be really fun to go off the trail. It is like being an explorer in an uncharted area. You are a trailblazer, a visionary, but also at risk to become bear meat. When you venture off the beaten path, you can ruin the surrounding habitat. You also put yourself at risk to animals and getting lost.
- Smother that odor. Restaurant smells are quite tantalizing. They draw people in from everywhere. It is very pleasant. That is what attracts wild animals to you—the smell. If you cooked a good meal, put on some perfume, or are just wearing some deodorant, it acts as lure. Do not put any of that on you when going outdoors to stay safe.
- Hike with friends. Everyone loves a party, but animals do not. Big groups are sure to keep them away. Even if you are just with one friend, it makes a world of a difference. In case of an emergency, it is much easier to get help and it is also a lot more fun.
- Leave the leash at home. It is fun to bring a dog on a hike. In a previous article, I wrote about taking your dog with you. If you are really worried about the threat of wildlife though, then it is best to leave your pet at home. Because they are yours and want to protect you, they can worsen a situation. Without them there, you have greater control.
- Avoid dead animals. Dead animals give off a lot of odor, making it a major attractant. There might be a bear or mountain lion nearby guarding its kill. If you do not see any animals, then they will be there soon or hiding in the vegetation. Report any dead along the trail to a ranger station.
- Let someone know your travel plans. Rushing out to go on a hike is enjoyable. The spontaneity gives anyone a juice of energy, but you can overlook safety by doing so. When you take the extra bit of time to let someone know, you save yourself.
- Never approach wild animals. They are called wild animals for a reason. You do not know what they will do. Stay at least 100 yards (91 m) from wolves, mountain lions, and bears. For any other animals, keep back 25 yards (23 m). This also includes not feeding them.
- Don’t play dead. You tell your dog to play dead all the time, but it is not a good idea when dealing with wild animals. When you play dead, you are giving up your height advantage, encouraging it to come closer. You do not want that. You want as much distance between you and it.
What to Do When a Mountain Lion Crosses Your Path
Found throughout the Americas, Mountain lions can be up to 8 ft (2.4 m) long and weigh between 100 – 200 lbs (45 – 90 kg), making them quite big.
- Stop, stay in place. If you start running, they will give chase. It is no different to them than hunting deer or elk, except it’s you. Hold your ground and stand firm.
- Face the mountain lion and maintain eye contact. If you do a staring contest with your friend, you lose when you blink. The same applies here. You are the bigger person when you stand firm.
- Get big and speak in a loud, deep voice. Deep voices resonate much more than higher voices. People stand to attention when they hear it. It is no different for mountain lions. You also need to get big. Raise your arms, puff out your chest, and enlarge your face. Act like big foot with your arms raised.
- Back away slowly without losing sight of it if it is safe. You need to keep an eye on the mountain lion in case anything happens. If they approach, you can brace for it. Backing away slowly gives you and it the opportunity to retreat.
- If attacked, fight back. This is your life. Do not stop until the fight is over. Firstly, protect your neck and then your head. Cats like to go for the quick kill, so they aim for that. Use anything and everything with your reach to fend it off. Your best bet is gouge its eyes out or bite down on its snout.
It is the end of a long day of hiking. You are tired and the sun is setting in 30 minutes. You need to make camp. Where do you put your food? Nope, not in your tent, but away and in a tamper proof, sealed container.
Raccoon and skunk are some bigger pests you can expect to see around a campground. If there is only one or two of them, you can get away with getting loud and jumping to get them away. If there is a bigger group, keep your distance. They will fight ferociously.
Keep your food in an inaccessible place. If it is easily accessible, then squirrels and other pests can get to it. This can mean storing it in a bear bag or in a sealed cooler. If that is not option, use some bungee cords. They are an inexpensive option to consider.
Turn on the lantern. Raccoon are nocturnal, so they do not like the light. If you keep one on at night, then they will stay away from it, so use it to keep them away from your sleeping quarters.
Bring out the fabric softener sheets. Believe it or not, but fabric softener sheets work to keep raccoon and skunks away. You can also use spices like cinnamon, black pepper, chili powder, and dried hot pepper. The smell drives them up the wall.
If there is an encounter, turn on the lights. In other words, use a flashlight. Shine it at them. They are like vampires who hate the light. Keep your distance as much as you can. No matter what they have done, an encounter is not worth it.
When in Bear Country
When you encounter a bear, it will either be defensive, aggressive, or non aggressive. Understanding the differences in vocabulary is crucial for comprehending what follows below. If it is the first one, then it is probably defending something. It may be a Mamma bear with its cubs or a carcass. It is less likely to go after you, but it will do what it can to defend itself.
For aggressive encounters, it is going after you. These situations are rare, but they do happen, so you have to be prepared in case it does. You need to do everything in your power to defend yourself.
A ‘neutral’ encounter is what is most likely going to happen. You are hiking and then you spot a bear. You both see each other, but the bear does not know what to make of you. The choice you make is critical to how the situation is going to play out.
If they don’t see you, then walk away quietly. This option is always on the table. Take a slow detour without losing sight of the bear. Do not run. Just walk. Give them plenty of room. The best encounter is no encounter, so put as much distance between you and it.
If there is a non-aggressive encounter, assess the situation. Are there cubs present? If so, then the bear will behave more aggressively. How many are there? When that is done, speak in a calm, appeasing tone. Bears can cover a good distance in a short amount of time. When the chance arises, walk, do not run, away. Keep your eye on the bear to see how it will react.
If you make contact in a defensive encounter, fall to the ground and play dead. You want to roll onto your stomach and cover your neck and head. Keep your body spread, so the bear cannot flip you over. Remain still until the bear leaves. When you know for certain that it is safe, you can get up.
If you make contact with an aggressive bear, fight back. This is life or death. Those are your choices. Do everything you can to survive. Punch or hit the bear with whatever you have available. Concentrate your attacks on the face, mainly its nose and then its eyes. Their noses are especially sensitive.
Black bears vs grizzly (brown) bears. Grizzly bears are much more dangerous. You do not want to challenge them. With a black bear, they are much more easily moved. If you yell, “get away black bear!” while increasing your size, then it will move them. You can do this if you spot them in a campground. It is no problem. Black bears are smaller and have shorter claws than grizzlies.
Be smart at a camp site. This is critical. Store food in designated animal proof facilities if your camp site has them. If that is not an option, then store food out of reach of a bear. Consider a bear canister. They work wonders. Otherwise, do not take food into your tent for any reason whatsoever. Keep your campfire clean of food residue. Ideally, make a clear distinction between the food hanging area, cooking area, and your sleeping area.
These are the basics to keep in mind when in bear country. Follow these guidelines and you will be sure to stay safe.
When you are outdoors, you are not alone. There are bears, mountain lions, raccoon, moose, and many other animals, but it does not mean that you cannot enjoy yourself. Just keep in mind the advice laid out here to stay safe. Otherwise, happy hiking!
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!