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Keeping Safe Around Wildlife

Keeping Safe Around Wildlife

Keeping Safe Around Wildlife

The warmer temperatures are getting everyone stoked about getting back outside (if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder). This also means though, that the there will be a more common occurrence of wildlife as well. Yes, it is incredibly exciting to see animals in their habitat but if dealt with in the incorrect ways an encounter can lead to injury or death. Unfortunately, sometimes you stumble upon wildlife without knowing, turning the corner, and they are within a few feet of you. Well, we wanted to break down how to prevent attacks, how to handle encounters, and finally how to handle getting attacked.

Mountain Lion

Keeping Safe Around Wildlife


Remote mountains, canyon-lands, or hilly areas with good cover: Western US/Canada, Mexico, and Florida (endangered there)

Prevention of Attack

1) Don’t let small children/dogs wander too far. Mountain Lions see them as easy, small prey.

2) Travel in groups. 2 is minimum, obviously, but 3+ is really best.

3) Don’t camp on tree lines. Mountain lions seek shelter in the tree lines, instead camp in the wide open and never travel alone even for the dreaded bathroom break.

4) Making noise really does nothing for a mountain lion. Chances are, it already knows you are there. Just an FYI.

If Encountered

1) Give it space to flee. It’ll be more freaked out to see you than you to see it.

2) Look big and hold your ground. If you choose to run, the lion will chase you. If you hold your ground with arms up, waving backpack – anything to make you look bigger – the lion will more than likely leave without an attack.

3) Do not bend over. If you do the lion can mistake you for a four-legged-prey animal. Stay upright.

If Attacked

1) Mountain Lion’s teeth and fore-claws though are really scary; they tend to rip apart their victims with their hind claws. So if you stay on your feet, while attacked, you will have a better chance of surviving than if you get taken to the ground.

2) Use whatever is around you as a weapon: sticks, rocks, backpack, dirt in the eyes, whatever.

3) Pepper spray. Pretty self-explanatory, it would suck to get hit with that.

4) Fight like hell.


Keeping Safe Around Wildlife


USA – Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and northern parts of North Dakota/Minnesota/Wisconsin/Michigan/New York, All of Canada and Northwest Territories & Yukon Territory

Prevention of Attack

1) Keep a watchful eye ahead of where you are planning on running/hiking/biking. It’s common sense that they hang out at water sources or in big fields of grass.

2) Never threaten them, they will buck back.

3) Be careful while trail running or mountain biking, these seem to be the times when people scare these animals the most even though most encounters happen hiking.

If Encountered

1) Give it space. When moose feel threatened, like any cornered animal, it will attack and kick the life out of you.

2) If near moose with young babies, retreat from where you came from. They can be extremely aggressive with young ones.

3) Run. Since they are not predatory, they will leave you be unless you further provoke it by throwing things at it. Avoid doing that.

4) They do not do false charges. Never challenge a bluffed attack from a moose. It will attack the first time it shows signs of it.

5) Kicking up hooves, licking lips, pinned back ears, and a bowed head are the warning signs of a potential charge.

6) Hide behind something. Their eyesight isn’t the best.

7) Climb a tree. Moose can’t climb with hooves.

8) Sounds from the moose/baby, leave immediately. That’s the sound of it being threatened.

If Attacked

1) Lie in a fetal-position-ball covering your head and neck. Wait it out. Sounds horrible but it’s your only real option as it stomps on you with its hooves. Eventually it will give up and leave you be. Lie completely still until it is completely out of sight/out of mind. Once that happens seek out help immediately, you’ll need it.


Keeping Safe Around Wildlife


In general, bears are mainly found in the northern parts of the US/Canada.

Black bears – Western US/Alaska, all of Canada, parts of Mexico

Grizzly – Montana, Northwestern parts of Canada and Alaska, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territory

Prevention of Attack

1) Keep distance

2) Make noise. By doing so you will make a bear aware of your presence and it will want to avoid you more than you will want to avoid it. (Well maybe, you’ll be more afraid, since we are a third it’s weight)

3) When camping, keep food away from your campsite and cook 100 yards away from said campsite. Bears have an amazing sense of smell and have been known to chase down a smell miles away. Store food in bear-tight containers and never eat/store food in your tent.

4) Never come between momma bear and baby bear. Momma will attack in defense-mode.

If Encountered

1) Back away slowly, making sure to keep your eyes on it. Then once at a safe distance and know that it too has turned around, run.

  1. Do not try to outrun a bear outright. It can reach up to 30mph, we run at around 10mph. Don’t try it.
  2. Never turn your back to a bear. It’s instincts will kick in and treat you as running prey.

2) Shout at it. Shouting should do enough to scare the bear away.

3) Throw something of yours on the ground (especially food). It may distract it long enough for you to get away.

If Attacked

1) Use bear spray if you have it. It does not shoot like pepper spray for people, but creates a huge yellow cloud that gets shot of the can 15 ft away.

2) Once attack is over, don’t get up right away. Assess what the bear is doing before making any big movements.

3) Using a gun is nearly useless. A bear will continue its charge unless the shot is perfect and the bullet is a .357 (Magnum)

By a black bear:

Fight back with whatever weapon you can find.

By grizzly:

If you are being stalked, fight back, but playing dead will help the chances of reducing injuries. When playing dead the best position is to leave your backpack on and go into the fetal position with your head in between your legs and your hands/arms over your neck/head. The other option is to lie on your stomach, covering your head and neck again.


Keeping Safe Around Wildlife


Anywhere there is wilderness, North and South America, Mexico, Canada

Prevention of Attack

1) Look before you sit, whether that’s on a stump, the ground, etc., there might be rattler near you.

2) When bushwhacking in snake-y country, carry a stick or something long to push away the brush to see what you are stepping onto.

3) When camping make sure to keep tent doors closed and shake out sleeping bags before getting in.

If Encountered

1) Identify it.

  1. A flat, triangular-shaped head (although this may not be adequate to mark it) — broader at the base of the head than at the front
  2. Heavy-bodied
  3. Openings between the nostrils and eyes — these are the heat-sensing pits
  4. Hooded eyes and elliptical pupils — these may not be readily apparent and you’ll have to be fairly close to see this.
  5. Coloration — generally tan and brown patchwork; the Mohave rattlesnake is green, however, and has light bands at its tail end. If you can see these bands with the naked eye, you are probably too close.
  6. A rattle at the end of its tail (made of modified scales). Young rattlesnakes often have only a few parts of the rattler formed — be wary of this as the bites of newborns are still venomous. Rattles may also be broken off, malformed or silent. Do not rely on the rattler as the only form of identification.

2) The rattle is to warn you that they, the snake, is nearby, whether it’s on the ground in the plain site or in a cornered position under a rock, etc.

3) Leave it alone, otherwise you will become a target.

4) Give it distance if walking past it.

5) Overestimate the strike distance it has. Remember it strikes faster than the human eye can see.

6) Recognize the signs of a rattlesnake about to strike. These are general, sometimes there may be a strike without these signs because a rattlesnake can bite from any position if needed:

  1. A rattlesnake in a coiled position — the coil permits the rattlesnake to make its most effective strike
  2. The front end of its body (head) is raised
  3. Its rattler is shaking and making rattle sound


If Attacked

1) Do not panic if bitten. Panicking will set your blood pressure through the roof and send that venom coursing through your body quicker. The best advice, walk slowly to get help or even better, call on your cell phone for a rescue.

2) Not all bites are fatal but can be for young children or elderly. To note, this isn’t always the case, and anything can happen.


Keeping Safe Around Wildlife

It is not very often that a shark enters a well populated beach area to select a victim from among a group of people. On the other hand, quite often the victim is the person suddenly left alone and farther out from shore than others in the water.

– David H. Baldridge, “Shark Attack”


Papua New Guinea; South Carolina; California; Brazil; Brevard County, Fla.; Queensland, Australia; Hawaii; New South Wales; Australia; South Africa; Volusia County, Fla.


Prevention of Attack

1) Avoid being out at night and dawn, it’s a popular hunting times

2) Stay in groups, they prefer attacking individuals

3) Keep your shiny/bright colors at home. Shiny accessories can resemble scales.

4) Don’t go out in the water if you are bleeding.

If Encountered

1) Sharks can sense fear, so stay calm and still.

2) Put whatever you can between you and the shark (ie surfboard, boogie board, etc)

If Attacked

1) Attack the weak areas of the shark (eyes, nose, gills) by not using your hands, instead use whatever you can.

2) If being pulled underwater, fight for you life. Scratch and claw at it, because playing dead does nothing.

3) Once away from the shark after the attack stop the bleeding immediately. Many fatal shark attacks happen because people bleed out.


Poisonous Spiders

Keeping Safe Around Wildlife

Top 10 Most Poisonous Spiders

  1. Brown Recluse
  2. Black widow
  3. Brazilian wandering spider
  4. Funnel-web spiders
  5. Mouse spider
  6. Red back spider
  7. Wolf spider
  8. Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
  9. Sac spider
  10. Hobo spiders



Just about everywhere, the types are dependent on climate

Prevention of Attack

1) Consistently clean your house and sweep up spider webs.

2) Reduce clutter, keep clothes off the floor – they like to burrow

3) Move firewood away from home

  1. a) Don’t keep firewood inside; they like to live in it

4) Install tight-fitting window screens and door fittings.


If Encountered

1) Get rid of them using sprays, dust application, exterior treatment, spot treatment, vacuum removal, sticky boards

If Attacked

1) Remain calm, by panicking your blood flows quicker and the poison will course through your body.

2) Cover the bite with ice

3) Try to identify it so when speaking with a doctor, they can treat you correctly.





Prevention of Attack

1) If a dog comes up to you, don’t move, again because of the chase instinct. More times than not, the dog will just sniff you and then walk away.

2) Avoid eye contact, it’s only provoking the dog.

3) Never run away from a dog nor, do your best to, run past a dog. It activates the chase instinct in them and can make them more aggressive.

4) Dogs are very territorial. That being said, they are territorial with food, their young, and the pack. Try not to come up on a dog unexpected, even when sleeping, you might spook it and cause it to think you are a threat.

5) Never approach strange dogs, especially if caged, leashed, or in a parked car.

If Encountered

1) If you’re threatened by a dog, don’t yell. Respond calmly. In a commanding voice, tell the dog to go away. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly.

Don’t yell, instead respond calmly in a commanding voice. Tell tell the dog, “to go away” and stand will until the dog leaves or back away slowly.

2) Claim your own space by using something in your hands to take command of your space.

If Attacked

1) Try to give the dog something that is “you” meaning your sleeve and take it off as the dog pulls. It’ll give you time to get away.

2) Protect the parts of your body you wouldn’t want to be attacked (ie face, chest, throat, and keep hands in fists to protect fingers.) Best places to get bitten: shin and forearms.

3) Refrain from pulling away from a bite it will do more damage. Also, a dog has one mouth, you have two arms, fight back with the other hand. [grab its back legs and lift them off the ground.]

4) If the bite is really deep, go see a doctor.

5) Bite from a stray, definitely see a doctor and get checked for rabies. They are not very common here in the United States, but better to err on the safe side.

(Source: Cesar Milan at

Disclaimer: This is not an expert list of how to deal with wildlife. As always consult a professional for further information on the wildlife in the area – aka a ranger. They will know much more. This list is basically to inform but is not meant to be the end-all of wildlife education.

Now, have a look at How to Survive the Zombie Apocolypse, or how to treat Common Outdoor Injuries.

About the Author


Stephen Weiss

Steve W Weiss, a backcountry snowboarder, rock climber, travel-addict starting in Ohio but now based in Utah. Blogger at Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for everything awesome.