10 Ways to Minimize Wild Animal Encounters While Hiking or Camping
By Brandon Hunt
They say that the first inclination which an animal has is to protect itself.
Every Friday when I drive home from work I see trucks hauling camping trailers, heading out for a weekend away from civilization. People love the outdoors,
whether it’s hiking in the mountains or running on a paved path just outside a neighborhood.
Yeah, we like to be close to nature, but do you know what to do if you meet a wild animal?
Truth is, as civilization encroaches upon the wilds, and animals are displaced, or become used to a human presence, the chances of meeting a wild animal increases. However, I need to note that statistically speaking, wild animal attacks remain quite rare.
When it comes to animal attacks, the best thing you can do is try to avoid one in the first place. I know. That was a great piece of wisdom there. But you can take action to reduce the chance of meeting a grumpy bear, cougar, moose, or sasquatch (you know they exist).
So, here are a few general tips to follow that can minimize a chance meeting with our large, furry friends. Also, I probably don’t have to say this, but remember no matter how cute they look, wild animals are still wild. Don’t try to pet one.
Minimize Wild Animal Encounters
- Make noise: You don’t have to bang pots or blast your neighbors annoying music to discourage animals. Conversation with a friend, the tread of your feet on gravel, the occasional snap or whack of stick against something should deter animals.
- Don’t wear headphones: You have a better chance of hearing an animal before you see it.
- Keep children and pets nearby: They like to sneak off and explore. Chances are they’ll meet a grumpy animal and try to say hi. Know where they are and keep them close.
- Travel in groups: A group of people quite often deters many a bad encounter, be it in nature or the urban jungle. Plus the noise from a group conversing and moving around encourages animals to keep some distance.
- Pay attention to smells: You may find your sense of smell is enhanced by the fresh air of the woods. If you catch a whiff of strong odor, or a pungent smell, pay attention. You could be in an animal's territory or near a fresh predator kill.
- Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk: You may want to start early on the trail, but be aware most animals are out at that time. Hiking during the daylight hour decreases meeting an animal. Most are bedded down during the day.
Even if you take steps to reduce the chance of crossing paths with a wild animal, it could still happen. Knowing how to react could very well be the difference if you walk away unscathed, but nervous and with a good story.
Proper Etiquette When Meeting a Grumpy Animal
- Don’t separate a mother and her young: Say you come across a couple of bear cubs. You might not see the mother. Doesn’t mean she’s not around. Don’t approach the cubs or inadvertently step in between them and momma bear. She won’t like that, and you might end up the worse off..
- Talk slowly and quietly: A calm voice will alert the animal that you see it, and hopefully pose no threat. Plus, I think it’s an instinctual action humans take to soothe the beast... or give you a chance to create distance.
- Back away slowly: Get some distance. Watch your footing if you can, while maintaining awareness of the animal’s posture.
- Carry pepper/bear spray and know how to use it: Make sure you know what you’re doing. Does the pepper spray diffuse in cone or stream? Get familiar with your equipment. Pepper spray should discourage most animals.
There are specific actions to take if you come across a bear or cougar, which will be covered in detail on other posts. The above are general tips. If you remember nothing else, keep in mind animals usually act to protect themselves. As usual, when it comes to nature, be prepared, carry the right tools, and be safe.
Again, animal attacks are quite rare. So get out and enjoy the outdoors before winter arrives.
And if you have a story or have experienced a wild animal encounter, feel free to share and comment. Your insight is valuable.