Jun 30, 2022 2:00 PM

Author: University of Utah Health Communications


Información en español

While exploring the wild, there is always the possibility of running into different types of wildlife. You may not be prepared for an encounter with a large animal such as a bear or a cougar. The last thing you want to do is bother these animals while they are in their environment and end up getting yourself hurt.

Running into wildlife can be scary, but here are some steps you can take to handle these situations:

Do not startle the animal

When you first encounter a wild animal, you should remain calm and not startle it. Screaming or running away can cause the animal to associate you with prey, leading them to come toward you.

Start backing away and make yourself look bigger

You should start backing away from the animal and make yourself look bigger by doing things such as making big hand motions. If you are with a group of people, it’s important to stay together and make yourselves look bigger by spreading out a little bit, while also making sure not to single anyone out as the animal may see an individual as something smaller and easier to approach.

Make human noises

As you are backing away, you want to make the animal aware that you are a human and start making noises. The best way to do this is to start talking. You can talk to the animal and tell it to go away.

Make sure to give the animal space to leave

You don’t want to make the animal feel trapped during your encounter, so make sure you give them space to leave. This can be hard because you may be in a place where you are naturally trapped due to things such as a river or rocks. But try your best to guide yourself and the animal where there is space to leave so the animal wanders off on its own.

Carry and learn how to use bear spray

You can also learn how to use bear spray and carry it with you to protect yourself. Bear spray works on any animal with eyes and a nose as it has a very strong reaction on the eyes, face, and nasal cavities.

It’s best to stay far away if possible

There are many other types of wildlife you could encounter such as moose and bison. There is a common misconception that herbivorous animals are safe to approach, which leads to many people getting injured. It’s important to not get close to these types of animals because they will charge at you when they feel threatened.

The National Park Service advises staying at least 75 feet, or about two bus lengths, away from all wildlife and 120 feet, or about three bus lengths, away from black bears, moose, and mountain lions.

The bottom line: Animals want to be left alone

For the most part, wild animals do not want to be seen by or interact with humans. It’s important to leave wildlife alone and know what steps to take if you encounter them to keep yourself safe.

We are lucky to see wildlife and you can always enjoy viewing these animals from a distance!

wellness prevention wildlife wildlife safety animal encounter bear safety cougar safety

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