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Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators On The Trail

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Hiking is a beloved activity for pet owners, providing the perfect opportunity to explore new places while enjoying the beauty of nature. However, encountering predators on the trail can be a real concern. Knowing how to handle these situations is crucial for the safety of both you and your furry companion. Whether it’s mountain lions, coyotes, bears, or even moose, being prepared and following safety guidelines can ensure a positive hiking experience. In this article, we will discuss some essential tips for encountering predators on the trail, allowing you to confidently enjoy your outdoor adventures.

Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators On The Trail

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Pet Friendly Hiking Tips

Hiking is an extremely popular pet-friendly activity and a great way to explore new places when you travel. And seeing wildlife along the trail is a special treat! But it’s important to know how to handle encountering predators during your hike.

When hiking with your pets, keep in mind that many wild animals consider dogs to be a deadly threat. Even if your dog is a teddy bear who wouldn’t hurt a fly, his presence in an animal’s environment can cause them to behave defensively. They also believe they’re encountering predators! So, as you’d do with any activity, it’s important to take precautions to keep yourself and your pet safe.

Here are a few things that could make you and your dog less threatening to any wildlife you might encounter:

  • The best strategy is to avoid surprising animals by making noise as you hike and staying aware of your surroundings – especially on sections of trail with limited sight lines.
  • Attaching bear bells on your dog’s collar will alert wildlife to your presence and give the animals time to avoid 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.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Instead, tune into your surroundings so you can hear any animals that might be moving near you.
  • Keep an eye out for tracks, fresh scat, digs, or other signs that animals are active in the area.
  • Don’t jog on the trails where encountering predators is common. Running activates a predator’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Keep your dog on a leash so that he can’t put himself and you in danger by chasing any animals you encounter. If he does react to an animal, do your best to keep him close and under as much control as possible. Calmly move away from the animal, taking care not to run or allow your dog to run, as it might trigger the animal to chase you.
  • In places where off-leash hiking is allowed, consider keeping your dog leashed if he doesn’t have a solid recall. And even if he does, keep pets close to you and within sight at all times.
  • Be sure someone knows where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a first aid kit and a cell phone.
  • Carry bear spray and be sure that you have practiced using it before an attack.

Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators On The Trail

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Tips For Encountering Predators On The Trail

If You See A Mountain Lion (Cougar)

  • Calmly face the lion and maintain eye contact according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Humane Society of the U.S. recommends staring at a cougar’s feet instead.
  • Hold your ground or back away slowly.
  • Stand upright – don’t crouch or bend over. Make yourself look large – raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack above your head.
  • Talk loudly and firmly in a deep voice.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, sticks, or your belongings in its direction.

If You Are Attacked By A Mountain Lion

  • Don’t run.
  • Fight back using whatever is available to you – sticks, tools, keys, rocks, or even your bare hands.
  • Protect your head and neck, using your backpack or jacket as a shield.

If You Meet A Coyote

  • Coyotes sometimes hunt in small packs, so keep an eye on your surroundings.
  • Calmly and slowly back away and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • Raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack over your head to make yourself look bigger.
  • Clap your hands and shout in a deep voice.

If You Are Attacked By A Coyote

  • Don’t run.
  • Yell loudly and throw rocks, sticks, or your belongings at it.
  • If it moves closer, throw dirt, gravel, or sand in its eyes.

If You Encounter A Bear

  • When 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.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • If the bear sees you, remain still, stand your ground, and avoid sudden movements.
  • You want the bear to know you’re human, so talk calmly in a normal voice and move your arms.
  • The bear might come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better view. Remember, a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression.
  • If the bear is watching you but not moving, slowly move sideways away from the bear. This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.
  • Throw something onto the ground (like a hat or camera) if the bear moves toward you. This might distract the bear and allow you to escape.
  • Never feed or throw food to a bear.

If A Bear Charges You

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

If A Brown or Grizzly Bear Attacks

  • Use bear spray if you have it. Spray when the bear is within 40 feet so it runs into the fog. Aim for the bear’s face.
  • 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, and leave your pack on to protect your back.
  • Fighting back usually increases the intensity of the attack. However, if the bear persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have to hit the bear in the face.

Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators On The Trail

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