Hiking and Wildlife

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Whether you hike, mountain bike, float rivers or ride horses, there are precautions you should take. Following the suggestions below will help make the journey safer for you, your companions, and wildlife. Remember, all wildlife can be dangerous. Please do not approach or feed wild animals, especially bears.

Common causes of attacks while hiking:

  • Not making sufficient noise.
  • Approaching or surprising an animal at close range, especially a bear.
  • Getting close to a carcass or other food source.
  • Startling a female bear with cubs.
  • Hiking off trail or at night.

Bear country can also be home to cougars, snakes and other wildlife, such as bison, moose, deer and elk. All wild animals can be dangerous. Always maintain a safe and respectful distance from wildlife. Look for bear signs in your immediate area.

Make Noise: Talk, sing or clap your hands to let a bear know of your presence. Don't rely on bells, usually they are too quiet. Shout often, especially when traveling upwind, near streams and waterfalls, or when you cannot see the path ahead. (avoid thick brush).

Be Alert: Watch for bear sign such as tracks, droppings, diggings, rocks rolled over, scratch marks on trees and logs torn apart. Carry binoculars and scan ahead periodically.

Don't Hike Alone or at Night: Bears and cougars are most active at dawn, dusk and night, but can be encountered any time. Groups of three or more people tend to make more noise and appear more formidable. This makes groups safer than solo hikers.

Stay on Trails: for your safety and to protect the habitat.

Avoid Carcasses: Report dead animals to the nearest ranger station. It is very risky to approach a carcass; a bear may be just out of sight, guarding its food.

Avoid Odorous Items: Leave foods and beverages with strong odors, scented deodorants and lotions and other odorous items at home. A bears acute sense of smell can detect odors from great distances. Dry foods are both lighter and less smelly.

Stay with Your Gear: Don't leave your packs, food or beverages unattended; even food or beverages stored under water may attract bears.

Taking Pets on Hiking Trails is Not Advised: Pets may attract bears and cougars and are not allowed on trails in our National Parks and Refuges. If dogs are permitted, keep them on a short leash to avoid conflicts with wildlife.

View and Photograph from Established Observation Areas or the Trail: If an animal approaches, back away to maintain a safe distance.

Use Binoculars, Spotting Scopes or a Telephoto Lens: When viewing and photographing an animal to avoid stressing the animal.

Hike at a pace everyone can maintain and stay together. Cougars and some bears behave in a predatory manner and will seek the easiest target. Don't hike ahead or allow someone to fall behind, especially children and pets.

Running to a tree may provoke a bear or cougar to chase you. You cannot outrun them. Bears can run up to 30 mph, up and downhill, while cougars are known for their powerful sprints and jumps. Climb a tree only if it is near and the animal far away. Keep in mind that all black bears and some grizzlies climb trees.

Rattlesnakes are very seldom seen. They can sense our vibrations from our walking and look for a place to hide, which is often behind rocks, logs or in thick brush. They are usually not aggressive unless they are directly threatened, either deliberately or by accident. To prevent being bitten avoid stepping directly in front of or behind logs and rocks(step on top and away). Before sitting down or picking up supplies from the ground, look around the area carefully. Watch where you put your hands and feet. Most importantly, enjoy snakes at a distance without disturbing them.