Seven W's of Hiking Safety: Wildlife

Rattlesnake

One of the most common venomous snakes in the United States is the rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are extremely timid and like to avoid contact with people as much as possible.

Often, snakes will hide under logs, bushes, or in rock crevasses in order to avoid being stepped on. Don't depend on a rattlesnakes' rattle to warn you that it is near. Some rattlesnakes lose their rattles, so always watch where you step or put your hands, especially when crossing over a log or climbing over boulders. Tip: try to step on a log or boulder rather than over it.

If you are walking through brush or bushes, make a lot of noise to alert any snakes to your presence. If you see a snake, back away slowly and walk around it--the snake will not pursue you. If you are bitten by a snake, seek medical attention immediately. The California Poison Control System recommends using a Sawyer Extractor snakebite kit which has a syringe-like device to extract some of the venom.

Stay calm, try to keep the wound below your heart, and get to a hospital. Each year in California, only 1 to 2 out of 800 reported rattlesnake bites have been fatal.

Mountain Lion

The mountain lion is one of the rarest mammal to spot in the wild. They pose the greatest risk to petite women and small children. If you encounter a mountain lion, try not to bend over (but do put small children on your shoulders). Also:

  • Do not turn away from the lion
  • Make yourself look big by waving your arms
  • Throw rocks and sticks
  • Speak slowly, loudly, and commandingly at the lion
  • Stand your ground
  • Never run

If the Mountain Lion attacks, fight back facing the lion and try to stay on your feet to protect your head and neck.

Scorpion

Scorpions can be a nuisance, but their stings are no more serious than a bee sting. If camping and you leave your boots outside your tent, turn them over and shake them out just in case.

Tick

Another common insect found in the outdoors is the ticks. They drop down onto unsuspecting hikers and attach themselves to the skin. Some ticks carry disease such as Lyme disease. Most often, the tick must stay attached to a person for over 36 hours in order to transfer the disease, so check your skin for ticks after you hike and remove them if they are found.

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Riverside Hiking Examiner Cathy Flores is a freelance author currently writing a hiking guide for the San Bernardino Mountains.

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