Animal Encounters

For all animal encounters, try to stay calm. Encounters are uncommon and attacks/injuries are even more rare. NOTE: Run without headphones (or at least take out one earbud) so you can hear any warning signs.


Avoid the snakes:
• Know the terrain you are in and what snakes are there.
• Most snakes are not venomous.
• Watch where you step if you are in snake habitat. Snakes will try to avoid you but will react if you step near or on them. 
• Be aware that snakes will seek out sunny areas to get warm, often on the edge of the sun.
• Don’t jump over a log. Instead step on the log or rock so you can see if there is a snake under or beyond.
• If you see a snake, avoid it. Don’t try to pick it up or chase it away. It will bite you.

If you are bitten and concerned it is a venomous snake:
• Stay calm. Venomous snake bites in the U.S. are not usually immediately dangerous. 
• You need to seek quick medical attention but you have some time to get to help
• Try to move the affected body part area a little as possible and seek medical attention.
• Remove any tight items on the area (rings, watches)Consider taking a picture of the bite on your phone or marking with a marker to monitor the time and progression of redness, swelling and other symptoms.
• It is okay to keep walking if needed to get yourself out.
• Do not place a tourniquet or cut the area or try to suck out the venom. These do not work and cause more harm. Similarly, commercial “snake bite kits” are useless.
• Do not try to capture or kill the snake. It will bite you again.  If you can identify it or take a picture from a safe distance this can be helpful. NOTE: snakes can strike from several feet way so keep you distance


The majority of the bears in the U.S are black bears and typically less aggressive than grizzly bears. If you happen to be in Alaska and confront a polar bear—good luck.

More common at dusk and dawn so be cautious at these times. If you are going to an area of high bear presence/activity consider bringing bear spray

If you encounter a bear (same for black and grizzly):
• Stay calm and stand tall.
• Do not run. They are faster than you and will catch you.
• Do not climb a tree. They are better at this than you.
• Speak in a calm, low voice to identify yourself as a human and not as prey.
• Avoid fast movement, slow arm waving is okay.
• After identifying yourself as human you can move slowly away or into a safe space such as a building or car. Again, DO NOT RUN. If you see cubs, move away. Momma bear is close and won’t like you playing with her cubs.

If you are attacked by a bear:
Black—if you can escape to a safe space do it. If not—fight back. Use your bear spray or if you don’t have it try to hit/kick/stab the face area.
Grizzly—play dead. Lay on your stomach and protect your neck with your hands. Wait until the bear leaves the area to move. If it continuous to attack in spite of you playing dead then fight back.

Mountain Lions

More common at dusk or dawn so be cautious if you are in mountain lion habitat at these times. They will likely see you first. 

Keep eye contact and try to make yourself look bigger (raise your arms, stand tall, raise your poles).

Hold your ground or slowly back away. Don’t run.

Don’t bend down or reach to pick a rock up on the ground. It may make you look like four-legged prey.

If it starts moving toward you:
• Wave your arms slowly.
• Speak in a loud, firm voice.
• Throw something toward it. NOTE: don’t bend over to pick something up but if you have something to throw use it.
• If attacked, fight back.


Moose are deceptively dangerous, take a moose encounter seriously especially if calves are present or during mating season.

If calves are present, keep watching the moose and keep your distance—go out of your way to avoid the moose. Do not get in between a calf and the adult.

If a moose charges, run and try to get behind a tree. They will often stop the charge after a short distance or will not be able to move around the tree as quickly as you can.


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