How to Deal with Dangerous Wildlife While Hiking

No matter what time of year you go hiking, there will be a varying amount of dangerous wildlife along the way. The wildlife could be as small as a spider or as large as a grizzly bear, depending on where you are. 

This can be very intimidating to think about and may very well discourage you from going on many hiking adventures. 

How do you overcome this fear so that you can enjoy your trip and enjoy the process of planning more trips in the future?

The easy answer is preparation!

If you research the area(s) you will be exploring, you will be equipped with knowledge of how to avoid dangerous wildlife, how to protect yourself in the event you run into dangerous wildlife, and what physical equipment you may need in the event of an attack. 

You may think I’ll just get a gun for protection and want to buy a rifle online before your next outing, but that may not be legal where you are, plus in many cases it’s unnecessary.

Read on to gain the power of knowledge.

Make Noise

One way to minimize the interactions you may have with dangerous wildlife is to make noise as you hike. Taking time to be quiet and observe the wildlife around you is perfectly fine. Though, you want to make some noise as you hike so your presence is made known. 

Talking, singing, or simply stepping on noisy leaves and branches will let top off your whereabouts to the surrounding wildlife. 

Many times, the wildlife is just as afraid of you as you are of them. So, making sure your presence is known will likely cause the wildlife to retreat away from the area they sense you in.

Give Wildlife Proper Space

When you run into wildlife of any kind, it is always wise to keep your distance.  Wild animals are unlikely to attack you unless they feel threatened.

The best way to let the wildlife know you are not a threat is to keep your distance from them and their young. 

It can be tempting to approach several types of wildlife to observe them and even to snap a picture. However, staying a distance away from them will keep the animals from feeling that you are trying to corner them or harm their babies.

Back Away Slowly

If you happen to get too close to any wildlife and you feel that you are in danger, you can begin to back away slowly, keeping your eyes on the wildlife.

You want to get away slowly so as not to alarm the wildlife. Hopefully, you will be able to back away and make a wide detour to separate you from the wildlife in question. 

If this does not work, you will want to have a few things on hand, as discussed below.

Keep Bear Spray

One of the most well-known types of wildlife you may encounter are bears. Bear spray is a wonderful tool to have on hand. If you have never heard of it, it can be compared to mace. 

The difference between mace and bear spray is that there is more bear spray by volume, and it is highly pressurized, making it usable from thirty feet away. 

Research has found that bear spray can deter bears, even grizzlies, up to 92% of the time. This is a valuable tool to keep on hand, but it does not substitute for active diligence and awareness when hiking.

Remember, the best defense is a good offense. Bear spray can also be used as a last defense against other wildlife such as cougars and moose.

Always Protect your Neck and Head

When any type of wildlife attacks, you want to be sure you wear your hands around your head and neck as best you can. Doing so can help protect you enough that you do not die.
 
If you are attacked by a grizzly bear, you want to lay flat on your belly with your hands over your head and neck. If you are attacked by a moose, however, you want to try to curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck and head. 

Your neck and head contain your brain, brain stem, and other important items that keep your body functioning. Making these a priority in self-protection can save your life and save you pain and debilitation after an attack.

The top types of wildlife you are likely to encounter on a hike are snakes and bears. If you encounter a snake, you want to remain still and calm, so you do not alarm the snake.

 If you can, back away slowly and take a different path that gives the snake a lot of room. If you are bitten by a snake, you want to clean the wound with soap and water, limit activity so the venom does not go through your bloodstream more quickly and go to a hospital for a full evaluation.

If you encounter bears, you want to be able to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear. 

Their colors can vary, so you want to know that grizzly bears specifically have a shoulder hump, small, rounded ears, and a concave face. Black bears do not have a shoulder hump and they have a straight face.

If a black bear attacks you, you want to make yourself appear larger and scare the bear off. If it is a grizzly bear, however, do not make eye contact and back up very slowly. If a grizzly attacks, you want to either use bear spray or play dead.

Hopefully, the only contact with dangerous wildlife you experience is viewing them from afar and admiring their beauty. 

Always be aware of your surroundings and give wildlife as much room as possible when crossing paths. Educate yourself on the area you will be hiking and learn what wildlife you may encounter.
 
Knowledge is half of any battle, especially when going into the potential territory of a wild animal. If you come close to them, however, you want to be aware of how you can respect the surrounding wildlife and protect yourself. 

Enjoy your hike!