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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4-Animal Encounters

Now that we know how to avoid dangerous plants, let's talk about how to avoid dangerous animals.  Inevitably when you go hiking you will see some sort of animal along the way.  Most are harmless enough, but what happens when the animal is not so harmless?
In Washington, the 2 main animals to be aware of are bears and cougars.  These are 2 animals you do not want to encounter while hiking.  So, before you go on your hike, you can go here and check if there have been any recent sightings near your destination.  If so, find another place to go.

When you arrive at your destination, there are a few actions you can take to avoid dangerous encounters with wildlife.

1.  Look for signs of wildlife activity such as droppings, tracks, marking of trees etc.  You can find    out more information here.

2.  Make lots of noise.  You might think that this would attract an animal, but it actually scares them away.  They don't want to be around you as much as you don't want to be around them.  So, make your steps loud, and if you are with others, talk loudly.

3.  Hike in groups.  I know hiking buddies aren't always available, but a wild animal is less likely to attack a large group than a single person.

4.  Be Alert.  Even if you are following all of the other rules, you still need to be alert and aware of your surroundings.  Look around, watch for movement.  You want to see him before he sees you.

5.  Carry animal repellant spray.  I always bring pepper spray on every hike.  This will not only help with wild animals, but with aggressive dogs or humans.  Make sure to have this easily accessible, not hidden at the bottom of your pack.

Okay, so you followed all the rules and did everything right.  You turn the corner and there he is, a big black bear!  What do you do?  Go here to find out.  There are lots of different situations described but basically, slowly back away and retreat is the #1 thing to do.  Do not run away!  A bear is much faster than you and you will not win this race.

When my boys and I were hiking in Palm Springs, CA, we encountered a rattlesnake.  My youngest son and I stepped over a rock none the wiser.  My oldest son soon followed and froze.  He saw a rattlesnake right under the rock we just stepped over.  Yikes!
We slowly backed away and made our way back to the car.  The snake was not aggressive, he just seemed to be watching.  In most cases, if you make noise so they know you are there, they will ignore you.  You just want to make sure not to surprise wild animals, that is when you can get into trouble.

Have you ever encountered a wild animal on your hike?  Tell us your story.

Be safe and Happy Hiking!

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