Your Outdoor Skills: Encountering Wildlife in the Wilderness Part 2
As much as we do our best to avoid disturbing the wildlife while exploring in the backcountry, there are times that you may encounter them. Sometimes you can see them from afar, and other times you may come across them unexpectedly. When you come across them unexpectedly, it’s best to be prepared and understand what the best reaction is when you come across different wild animals.
Bears encompass a majority of North America. If you encounter a bear, always do your best to stay calm. Talk calmly to the bear, and slowly wave your arms. This gives the bear cues that you are a human and not a predator. Walk away slowly keeping an eye on the bear and where you’re stepping. Don’t run and don’t climb trees since bears will chase you and can climb trees. If the bear is directly in your path, walk around it, giving it plenty of space. A bear on its hind legs typically means it’s curious, and does not feel threatened.
If a bear becomes aggressive, react accordingly. When a brown or grizzly bear attacks, play dead. Lay flat on your stomach, protect your head and neck with your hands clasp behind your head, and spread your legs apart so the bear can’t roll you over easily. If you encounter an aggressive black bear, try to find a safe place, such as a car or building. In the event you can’t get away, do the opposite from a grizzly or brown bear and fight back. Use whatever you can find to fight back, and aim for the bears face and muzzle.
Always remember to never come between a bear and its cubs. When in doubt, stop by a local forest service station and inquire about bear activity and how best to respond if you encounter them. You can also find more information at the National Park Service website.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions and pumas, tend to like to stay hidden. But you may come across one that isn’t expecting. If you do come across a mountain lion, make yourself as big as you can and make as much noise as possible. Bang pots and pans together or yell as loud as you can. Stand your ground, make eye contact, and do not run away.
Make sure to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re between the cougar and its cubs or prey, you’ll want to make sure you don’t move toward them. Once you’ve assessed where you are, back away slowly, giving the mountain lion the opportunity to get away. Never turn your back to a mountain lion.
One of the largest mammals in North America, these majestic animals have poor eyesight. Because of their poor eyesight, they can become aggressive when surprised. You’ll more than likely see the moose before they see you. If you come across a moose, back away slowly and quietly. If you’re able to find a route around the moose, do so, but make sure you have a wide girth between you and the moose at all times. If you aren’t able to get around the moose, don’t try and force your way around it. It’s best to not take your chances, and cut your time outside short and head home.
Poor eyesight does give you an advantage if a moose becomes aggressive. Find a a tree to hide behind, or run in a zigzag pattern if they start to chase you.
Always check with local forest service or visitor centers before heading into the wilderness to learn about the animal activity in the area.
Remember: When it comes to outdoor skills the more you bring along, the less you have to carry. Skills don't break, don't rely on batteries and they're never left behind. They don’t leak, tear, and they don’t get wet!