Seven W's of Hiking Safety: Wildlife

Number 5 of the Seven W's of Hiking Safety is Wildlife.

When we step into the wild, we enter an enchanting world of intriguing plants and animals. Observe each with caution and respect, as some can be a threat to human health and safety.

Plants: Be Prepared

Bring a first-aid kit that includes bandages and disinfecting ointment. Thorny bushes and sharp branches can be plentiful. It's a good idea to wear long pants and learn how to identify the varieties of plants native to the area you are hiking.

Don't Panic

Never eat berries or plants in the forest unless you have been thoroughly trained to identify them. For example, Poison-Oak can be of particular interest in certain areas. It has green or red leaves in clusters of three.

If you come in contact with Poison-Oak, wash the area of contact with soap and water immediately. A rash may develop within 24 hours after exposure. Antihistamines and anti-itch creams can help soothe the rash.

Animals: Be Prepared

Research and talk to local rangers about how to remain safe should you encounter wildlife, such as a black bear, rattlesnake, or mountain lion. Keep your food in a bear safe canister and wear a bear bell. Another good idea is to carry a Sawyer Extractor snakebite kit.

If taking children with you on a hike, advise them about dangerous animals and never let them wander off alone. Also, remember to wear bug spray to avoid bites and ticks.

Don't Panic: What to do when you see a Black Bear

Black bear attacks are extremely rare. If you see a black bear, stop, keep your distance, and let the bear pass. Never approach a bear cub or get between a mother bear and her cubs; a mother bear will defend her cubs ferociously if she thinks you are a threat.

If you are hiking with small children, pick them up and put them on your shoulders. If a bear approaches you, back away slowly (don't run, you can't outrun a bear), keep facing the bear but don't make direct eye contact. Also:

  • Make noise and yell
  • Wave your arms
  • Make yourself look big
  • Throw rocks and sticks

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