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Guest Post: Follow Hiker Safety Rules For Potentially Dangerous Wildlife

Hiking and camping are two beloved pastimes that let people get in tune with nature, get exercise while breathing fresh air, and best of all, relax. Some campers also fish or hunt while they enjoy the great outdoors. Additionally, taking the family on camping trips is a great way to teach children survival skills and other lifelong lessons in a fun learning environment.

Preliminary planning and safeguards make the difference between a remarkable camping trip and one that goes awry. An ounce of forethought is worth more than a ton of cumbersome camping gear. The smartest hikers and campers carry as little as possible yet have everything they could conceivably need, should any situations occur.

Spending time in the natural outdoors means that you are entering the home of wild animals. When caught off-guard or frightened, some animals are dangerous, or even deadly. Other times, animals that are protecting their food supply can become aggressive. Thankfully, wild animals almost never attack humans without a good reason, and they are predictable, which makes it easy to prepare for ahead of time.

Prepare For A Bear

The chances of meeting a bear while hiking are slim as long as you stay on a hiking trail and make noise as you go. Talking to another hiker is enough to alert a bear in the area, which gives him a chance to hide. Except for the grizzly bear, most types of bears shy away from human contact. However, if a mother bear is protecting her cubs, you happen to hike near a bear’s latest kill, or if the bear feels cornered, they may react by charging you and attacking.

Bear-spray is a product that all hikers and campers should carry if they are in bear country. This is similar to pepper spray but it has a higher amount of the active ingredient, which irritates a bear’s nose, throat and lungs. Remarkably, studies show that people who use bear-spray instead of a firearm have greater success at escaping, unharmed. Shooting a gun at a bear is quite dangerous, because it may only make the animal more hostile.

Most bears that enter camping areas are in search of food. Human food, pet food and even smells from deodorants and perfumes attract bears, because they associate these smells with people. This is why it is crucial to keep food well contained and as scent-free as possible. Shelf Reliance food storage is a handy way to pack food for camping, and their freeze-dried food pouches take little space and have no odor until opened. Always pack out all empty food containers or dispose of in animal-proof receptacles along the trail.

Other Dangerous Animals To Avoid

Before you hike or camp in any area, research the types of animals that call it their home. Mountain lions, also known as cougars, prefer mountainous areas but, sometimes, live in brushy lowland areas as well. They are carnivores and may attack small children or pet dogs. Since cougars attack from behind or above, keep children between adults or ahead of them. Remember, a greater number of hikers in a group appears more fearsome to most dangerous animals.

Wild pigs are a growing concern across the United States, because they are invasive and can attack hikers who enter their territory. Wild boars, which have large tusks, have gored hunters in several states. Being aware of previous sightings in the area, as well as carrying a walking stick to use as a weapon is a good idea. Bear-spray also works on wild boars.

Enjoy The Wilderness But Be Safe

Never underestimate the fury that any wild mother animal may unleash on a person who she thinks is a threat to her babies. If you see baby animals, leave at once, because the mother is not far away. Additionally, almost every dangerous animal will think twice about attacking if you make yourself seem larger by raising your arms or pulling your shirt or coat out at the sides.

Any wild animal can be dangerous if it is surprised or provoked, so it is best to make noise as you travel and stick to trails. Touching a wild animal brings with it a potential risk for rabies, which spreads to humans through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. If confronted by a hostile animal it is rarely a good idea to run. Move slowly backwards while facing the animal. Remember, wild animals are usually more afraid of you than you are of them. Furthermore, it is their home, so please be respectful of it.

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6 comments to Guest Post: Follow Hiker Safety Rules For Potentially Dangerous Wildlife

  • Bev

    Out in Montana it was common practice to tie “bear bells”, just a jingler, onto the shoelaces of all children when camping. They were often attached to trail horses and and hiker’s boots as well. These are handy if you are in rattlesnake country as well.
    In grizz country, it is best not to go camping if a woman is cycling. The smell of blood attracts grizzlies.

  • John Gault

    This is a good post, I could not find a name attached to it so I don’t know who to thank? When I go hiking I always take a companion, I make a point of taking someone who is at least slightly overweight, somewhat lethargic and easily winded. Hanging a pork chop around their neck also adds to my sense of security. I’ve asked Rourke several times to go hiking…… he refuses.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    It reminds me of that joke that ends “How do you know that is bear $hit? Because of the bear bells in it”. The simple fact is that dangerous interactions with wild animals in the wild is rare. And about half the time a bear or other dangerous animal is encountered the animal will back off. On those occasions where the encounter becomes violent you may indeed have done something wrong (just as all airplane accidents are pilot error) bt pretty much it is all just chance and bear bells and pepper spray probably won’t matter. Most bears are attracted to trash or food or camp spots or dead animals etc. You are far more likely to see bear at night in the national park then you are to see them while out in the middle of no where hiking. If you choose to go into dangerou bear country like back country Alaska then my suggestion is bring a pump 12 gauge riot gun with slugs on a sling over your back for easy deployment. Everything/anything else is whistling past the graveyard.

  • Irish-7

    Although I love bears, and would hate to be put in a position to kill one, I am intrigued by experienced woodsmen’s advice on the best defense against bear attack. I pretty much disregard the crowd that adamantly proclaim “bear spray is better than a firearm”. I can see taking the spray to the woods and even trying it as a first option. But, I would have a lot more confidence carrying a gun. I have always believed that a .12 GA slug will kill any animal in North America. A .20 GA slug is not that much smaller, 3/4 or 7/8 oz as opposed to 1 oz for the .12 gauge. I own several large handguns: .45 Long Colt, .45 Auto and .357 Magnum. I am not sure which would be the best pistol to defend against bear attack. The .45 LC is the largest bullet at 300 grains. It is also the slowest round, moving less than 800 feet per second. The .45 ACP is a little lighter at 230 grains, but could be fired faster. The .357 MAG round (180 GR) is smaller still, but has higher velocity than both the .45’s. Perhaps some of my blog friends can provide some input. Thanks!

  • DHConner

    Animals need not be wild in order to be dangerous. A cow which is still with it’s calf is very dangerous. She can outrun you, she weighs more than you, and can butt you hard enough to knock you unconscious and then stomp you to death. A bull begins to get meaner around 4 years of age, and all the above applies here too. So are pet dogs. Females with pups in particular are likely to bite first and ask no questions. The 12 guage is a preferred cartridge in Alaska, as is the .458 Lott.

    In the Lower 48, excepting Grizzly ranges, the black bear is the one most likely to be encountered. They do hunt people, moving in and out of sight as they stalk you. You cannot outrun or out climb one. The 12 guage here would be the best choice also. If you are in an area where firearms are “forbidden”, then a .44 Magnum loaded with 300 Grizzly brand hard-cast bullets would be the least you should have. A .454 Ruger Redhawk would be a good deal more powerful, and if you can afford a Freedom Arms in .475 Linebaugh, get it. That will punch a black bear from end to end, clear through. When you shoot, shoot until the pistol is empty, reload, and if the animal is even breathing, shoot some more. Use a LONG stick to approach from BEHIND the animal and jab it, preferably as close to the eye as possible.

    One thought: if your .45 Long Colt is a Ruger SuperBlackhawk, Grizzly Ammunition probably has a load for it that leaves the normal commercial ammo in the dust. Either them or Buffalo Bore. Each company in VERY specific as to which brand and model of firearms are safe to use their ammo. Put Grizzly in a 100 year old Colt Peacemaker and you’ll be lucky is you still have your fingers. They are HOT loads!!

    I use the word “forbidden” in quotes, as it is stupid to be in known bear areas without a powerful firearm. I’d rather pay a fine or whatever than be dinner for the black bear that sees an easy kill. Grizzlies, excepting if you are between her and her cubs or food stash, male or female, or surprised, are more likely to leave. There are always those Grizzlies that are accustomed to taking human prey, but the black bear is a much greater danger due to it’s numbers in the Lower 48 and it’s known proclivity for attacking humans. I don’t care what the “experts” or PETA people say.

    I get my information from people who go to Alaska every year, sometimes 3 or 4 times a year. Doctors make a lot of money and can afford to do that and they get their information from those who live there. I trust my Doctors a whole lot more than some “armchair/book expert.” Some what we see on TV can lead the willing and wishful naif to perceive black bears a warm, fuzzy, cuddly teddy bears, and put themselves in mortal danger because of their ignorance. The bear can be all of those things, properly stuffed and mounted.

    7 weeks ago a black bear was seen in northeast Iowa, having either come down from Minnesota or swum the Mississippi River from Wisconsin. We get at least one stray here every year. I live in a suburb of Des Moines, the capitol city of Iowa, and 2 weeks ago the police killed a 100 # male mountain lion just 6 measly liitle blocks from an elementary school, in a heavily populated neighborhood. Several have been killed in the western part of the state in the last 2 years, and 2 were killed well inside the city limits of Omaha, Nebraska last year in well populated areas. Mountain lions almost always strike from behind, but they will charge from any direction.

    It’s best to keep that pistol right handy, because bear or lion, you have little time to draw and shoot. I’ve been hunting for 50 years, am an NRA Life Member, have bought and sold more guns than I can remember, re-load, shot competitively for several years, and read nearly every gun and hunting rag printed since 1963, and carry all the time. Do I expect to be attacked for special reason? No more than do those who are attacked, be it by two for four legged animals. The point is, my prospects for surviving are much better than those who are unarmed. I like living.