Hiking Tips For Encountering Predators

Do you know what to do if you meet a bear, a coyote, or a mountain lion on the trail? This week Buster and Ty offer advice that could protect you and your dog from being attacked by wild life while you’re hiking.

Buster: We talk a lot about hiking – that’s because it’s one of my favorite activities.

Ty in Bed

Ty: One of my favorite activities is sleeping, followed closely by eating, and then sleeping some more.

Buster: When you’re out communing with nature, there’s always a chance you could run into the wild things that live there.

Ty: Really? Like what?

Buster: Depending on where you are, bears, coyotes, mountain lions, or possibly a moose.

Ty: No one told me that. I am never going hiking again.

Buster: Don’t worry, little brother! We’ve got some advice in case you meet one of these animals on the trail.

Ty: First of all, I am older than you – so stop calling me “little brother.” Secondly, you mean advice other than “SCREAM LIKE A GIRL!”

Buster: Yea, way better advice than that.

General Tips

  • Avoid surprising animals by making noise and staying aware – especially on sections of trail with limited sight lines.
  • Putting bear bells on your dog’s collar will alert wildlife to your presence and give the animals time to avoid you.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Instead, tune into your surroundings so you can hear approaching animals.
  • Don’t jog on the trails known for animal encounters – it stimulates a predator’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Be sure someone knows where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a first aid kit and a cell phone.
  • Follow leash laws. They are there to protect you and your pets from predators.
  • In places where off-leash hiking is allowed, keep pets close to you and within sight at all times. If they run ahead, they may bring the predator right back to you.
  • If you are hiking in bear country, keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, so plan your hikes accordingly.
  • Keep an eye out for tracks, fresh scat, digs, other signs that animals are active in the area.
  • Carry bear spray and be sure that you have practiced using it before an attack.

If You See a Mountain LionMountain Lion

  • Stop – don’t run, and stay calm.
  • Talk loudly and firmly to the lion in a low voice.
  • Face the lion, but avoid direct eye contact as this may be interpreted as a challenge.
  • Back away slowly if you can do so safely.
  • Make yourself look large – raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack above your head.
  • Pick up you dog (if it’s small enough) so it does not run.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or your belongings at him.

If You Are Attacked by a Mountain Lion

  • Don’t run – fight back.
  • Use what ever is available to you – your backpack, jacket, sticks, tools, keys, knife, or even your bare hands.
  • Protect your head and neck.

If You Meet a Coyote

  • CoyoteRemember, where there’s one coyote, there’s usually a pack. Keep an eye on your surroundings.
  • Calmly, but slowly back away and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back.
  • Don’t run.
  • Raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack over your head to make yourself look bigger.

If You Are Attacked by a Coyote

  • If the coyote shows signs of an impending attack act aggressively – yell loudly, and throw rocks, sticks or your belongings at it.
  • Throw dirt, gravel, sand – anything you can find – in its eyes.

If You Encounter a Bear

  • If you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly, but do not run.
  • Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If it changes its behavior, you’re too close so back away.
  • If the bear sees you, remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • You want it to know you’re human so talk in a normal voice and move your arms.
  • A standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.
  • Throw something onto the ground (like your camera) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
  • Never feed or throw food to a bear.

BearIf a Bear Charges

  • Remember that bears charge as a bluff, running toward you then veering off or stop abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops, then slowly back away.
  • Never run from a bear! They will give chase, and bears can run faster than 30 mph.
  • Don’t run towards or climb a tree. Black bears and some grizzlies can climb trees, and many bear will be provoked to chase you if they see you climbing.

If a Grizzly Bear Attacks

  • Play dead!
  • Lie face down on the ground with your hands around the back of your neck.
  • Stay silent and try not to move.
  • Keep your legs spread apart and if you can, leave your pack on to protect your back.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Bears will often watch from a distance and come back if they see movement.

If a Black Bear Attacks

  • Be loud, waive your arms, and stand your ground.
  • Fight back! Be aggressive and use any object you have.
  • Play dead only if you are sure the bear attacking is a mother who is protecting her cubs.
  • Use bear spray if you have it. Spray when the bear is within 40 feet so it runs into the fog. Aim for the face.

If You Come Across a MooseMoose

  • Do not approach.
  • Give them plenty of space.
  • Moose often will not move out of the trail so you may need to turn around or go off trail to get around them.
  • Keep your dog close to avoid having her irritate the moose, and to prevent the moose from kicking her.

Are there any tips to stay safe while hiking that you’d like to add?

6 thoughts on “Hiking Tips For Encountering Predators

  1. This is a wonderful article! Thank you! These are tips I will take on trail with me. One time it was a bear with cubs, and my fear took over my logic. But it turned out OK because the bear retreated.

    Dogs are good trail companions–they alerted me to the bear and in a moment of potential danger, they stuck with me and followed my commands at the moment it mattered most.

    I hope it’s all right, but I linked this story to my blog at http://1000milesonmyowntwofeet.blogspot.com/2011/06/fight-or-flight.html to offer my readers reference about preditor encounters.

    Happy Trails, and I love reading your blog!

    1. Thank goodness things worked out alright. That was a scary story. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not going to let Ty read it. I’m afraid if he did we’d never pry his butt out of the Winnebago in bear country again! 🙂

  2. My two dogs hunt every day and sometimes twice. We have bears, cougars, elk, deer, coyotes, raccoons here on the Oregon coast. My two tiny pups one 85 and the 105 pounds can shake off or ruin a bell in no time. The large bell found on Lion Country. com works great after four tries with others.

    No matter how well trained a dog is if they see one of the above mentioned animals chances are they going after it. Too often they get lost or badly mauled. My dogs wear shock collars when in the forest which I will use in case they don’t listen and take off after some critter. Used it only once and it worked. This is not cruel compared to the alternatives.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the heavy-duty bear bells. We’re probably kind of sissies compared to your dogs, but we can wear out bear bells, too!

      And, thank for the reminder that any dog – no matter how well trained – can be overwhelmed and take off after a wild animal. We always encourage people to keep their dogs on leashes when hiking for exactly that reason. Last year in the Big Horn Mountains a ranger told us that 4 dogs were lost that week! One had been killed by a bear, one made it 8 miles away to another ranger station and two were still missing. It’s just to dangerous to not have a reliable way of getting your dog back.

  3. Coyotes will often try to lure a dog into a trap so the pack can attack it, so if you’re going to hike with your dog off leash, make sure you have perfect recall and leash your dog and keep it with you if you see a coyote.

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