Staying Safe in the Mountains: Animal Encounters
My friend and I were going to climb a 14er. We decided to start the long climb during the evening hours. We grabbed our headlamps and packed up our sleeping bags to hit the trail. With a plan to sleep at a lake a few miles in, we began our journey into the dark. About half a mile into our travel, my friend asked me a simple question, “What would you do if you saw a mountain lion?” I jokingly told her I’d make myself big and say “I’M A BEAR!” She forced a laugh, and then said, “Yeah, but really….?” The next morning she informed me that there were in fact eyes belonging to a rather large creature following us as we hiked. This isn’t meant to scare or alarm you out of hiking or night climbs. It’s a simple reminder that we are not alone in the great outdoors. Confused on what to do if you are approached by one of these amazing creatures? No worries, here’s some advice to keep you and your friends safe if greeted by our woodland friends.
Mountain Lions: If you come across a mountain lion, the best thing to do is make yourself as big as possible. If you’re with a group, join together. If you are wearing a backpack, put it on your shoulders and then make some noise. Your goal is to confuse the mountain lion into believing you are a predator. Maintain eye contact. Do not run or crouch down. Then move slowly away, without losing eye contact or turning your back. If the mountain lion does attack, fight back with whatever you can. Throw rocks, beat it with a trekking pole, or use your bare hands. Also, keep your neck and throat protected.
Black Bear: Black bears are pretty timid and will usually stay away from you. However, if one does approach you, try to keep your distance. If it continues to get closer, stand your ground, begin making loud sounds and shouts, throw items at it, and act aggressively to it in order to intimidate the bear. Do not run from the bear.. If the bear continues to attack, fight back anyway you can! Do not play dead!
Grizzly Bear: If you are fortunate enough to see a grizzly bear, that is awesome. But hopefully, it is from afar. If it is a little too close for comfort remember to stay calm. Do not try to run, but walk away slowly without making eye contact. Do not scream, but wave your arms to let the bear know you are a human. If the bear begins to charge, stand your ground. Use bear spray if you have it. If the bear makes contact with you, curl up in a ball on your side and remain quiet until the attack ends. Always be aware of your surroundings and stay calm.
Moose: If a moose feels threatened, it will generally leave. However, this is not always the case. If you are attacked by a moose, RUN! An aggressive moose is trying to drive you off, so make it easy on both of y’all and get out of there. Do not try to stand your ground but leave. If you can, put another object like a tree, car, or big boulder, between you and the moose as you get on your way. If the moose does strike, curl up in a ball and wait for the moose to finish. Do not get up until it is long gone.
The smartest way to avoid ever having a scary encounter with these animals is being aware of your surroundings and being smart. If you are camping in bear territory, keep your food away from camp and in bear bags. If you are going on a night hike, do not go alone and make a lot of noise. These animals are not out looking for trouble, but they will protect their young ones, territory, and fight for food. Enjoy nature and all it has to offer but always be wise!