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Hiking Safety: Encountering Predators on the Trail

Hiking Safety - Would you know what to do if you encountered predators on the trail?**This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your continued support.

Hiking is one of our favorite pet friendly activities, and I know many of you feel the same way. Of course, communing with nature can lead to encounters with wildlife and, while thrilling, it can also be dangerous. Deterring an attack, or surviving one, requires different behavior depending on the animal you encounter. Before you head out, make yourself familiar with the wildlife that lives in the area you are hiking, and follow these tips to be prepared.

General Tips

  • Avoid surprising animals by making noise and staying aware – especially on sections of trail with limited sight lines.
  • Putting bear bells on your dog’s collar will alert wildlife to your presence and give the animals time to avoid you.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Instead, tune into your surroundings so you can hear approaching animals.
  • Don’t jog on the trails known for animal encounters – it stimulates a predator’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Be sure someone knows where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a first aid kit and a cell phone.
  • Follow leash laws. They are there to protect you and your pets from predators.
  • In places where off-leash hiking is allowed, keep pets close to you and within sight at all times. If they run ahead, they may bring the predator right back to you.
  • If you are hiking in bear country, keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, so plan your hikes accordingly.
  • Keep an eye out for tracks, fresh scat, digs, other signs that animals are active in the area.
  • Carry bear spray and be sure that you have practiced using it before an attack.

If You See a Mountain LionMountain Lion

  • Stop – don’t run, and stay calm.
  • Talk loudly and firmly to the lion in a low voice.
  • Face the lion and maintain eye contact.
  • Back away slowly if you can do so safely.
  • Make yourself look large – raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack above your head.
  • Pick up you dog (if it’s small enough) so it does not run.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or your belongings at him.

If You Are Attacked by a Mountain Lion

  • Don’t run – fight back.
  • Use what ever is available to you – your backpack, jacket, sticks, tools, keys, knife, or even your bare hands.
  • Protect your head and neck.

If You Meet a Coyote

  • CoyoteCoyotes typically hunt alone or in pairs, so keep an eye on your surroundings.
  • Calmly, but slowly back away and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back.
  • Don’t run.
  • Raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack over your head to make yourself look bigger.

If You Are Attacked by a Coyote

  • If the coyote shows signs of an impending attack act aggressively – yell loudly, and throw rocks, sticks or your belongings at it.
  • Throw dirt, gravel, sand – anything you can find – in its eyes.

If You Encounter a Bear

  • If you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly, but do not run.
  • Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If it changes its behavior, you’re too close so back away.
  • If the bear sees you, remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • You want it to know you’re human so talk in a normal voice and move your arms.
  • A standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.
  • Throw something onto the ground (like your camera) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
  • Never feed or throw food to a bear.

If a Bear Charges You

  • Remember that bears charge as a bluff, running toward you then veering off or stop abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops, then slowly back away.
  • Never run from a bear! They will give chase, and bears can run faster than 30 mph.
  • Don’t run towards or climb a tree. Black bears and some grizzlies can climb trees, and many bear will be provoked to chase you if they see you climbing.

If a Grizzly Bear Attacks

  • Play dead!
  • Lie face down on the ground with your hands around the back of your neck.
  • Stay silent and try not to move.
  • Keep your legs spread apart and if you can, leave your pack on to protect your back.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Bears will often watch from a distance and come back if they see movement.

If a Black Bear Attacks

  • Be loud, waive your arms, and stand your ground.
  • Fight back! Be aggressive and use any object you have.
  • Use bear spray if you have it. Spray when the bear is within 40 feet so it runs into the fog. Aim for the face.

If You Come Across a Moose (yes, a moose!)Moose

  • Do not approach.
  • Give them plenty of space.
  • Moose often will not move out of the trail so you may need to turn around or go off trail to get around them.
  • Keep your dog close to avoid having her irritate the moose, and to prevent the moose from kicking her.

Are there any tips to stay safe while hiking that you’d like to add?

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  • Randi says:

    My mom and I were returning from walking our 2 dogs last weekend when a grizzly sow charged. She was between us and home. I saw a blur of black go up a tree behind her, so she had at least 1 cub. No 2 encounters are the same, but in our case, with the dogs barking like crazy and acting as if they were ready to attack the bear, we spoke in moderate (non-threatening) tones, did not turn or run or look her in the eye, backed away slowly while simultaneously pulling the dogs in by shortening their leashes. The sow charged twice but we believe she was unwilling to abandon the cub, so we just kept backing away and hoping for the best. We had been within 25 yards of her when she charged. When were were several hundred yards away and could no longer see or hear any sign of her, we finally turned and walked briskly (still no running), constantly looking behind just in case, until we reached a neighbor’s house to get a ride home. Easier said than done, but being aware of best practices in case of a bear encounter helps a lot – thank you for sharing your tips! – and staying as calm and clear-headed as possible is key.

    • Amy at says:

      Randi, I’m so glad you’re all okay! It must have been terrifying for all of you! Thank you so much for sharing your experience – your tips may help someone else in a similar situation. Stay safe out there!!

  • I found your tips to be very good. And learn something new. I just hope I never need to use your tips.

  • KarenB says:

    I live in NW Illinois, and their is a mother mountain lion, and 2 cubs,(which means there must be a male somewhere) being spotted in the area. I am in the process of finding a new hiking companion dog, is there a good breed that would more than likely try to defend me rather than hide behind my legs? I want a big dog, like a mastiff or GSMD or even a pit? What do you think?

    • Amy at says:

      Hi Karen,

      Congratulations on the upcoming addition to your family! As you know, there are some breeds more likely to be protective, like German Shepherds, but it will depend on the unique personality of the dog you adopt. I’d think any of the breeds you mentioned would make a great hiking companion for you.

      Keep in mind, though, there are other factors to consider, such as a mastiff breaking weight restrictions a hotels if you travel a lot. Or a bully being banned from some places. Of course, mastiffs and German Shepherds (and other large breeds) can have issues with mobility when they get older, so that’s something to consider, too.

      My advice it to try to imagine all the things you’d like to do with your new dog and then find a dog with the personality to thrive in those situations – regardless of the breed. Good luck!

  • I’m glad you found them helpful – thanks for your note!

  • Of course, knowing the wild life of the area is more important before heading out on a trail. These tips are very useful.

  • Jared Wolff says:

    A cougar and a mountain lion are the same exact animal. Just different names for it.

  • I hear you, Isabel B. Martin – I’m not sure my legs wouldn’t turn to jelly! ;-)

  • , for a lot of animals, showing teeth can be a sign of aggression. I dont know about moose… personally I wouldn’t try it, to scared to “offend” the animal in front of me haha.

  • Wow – that must have been frightening! I’m so glad you were able to get to safety and everything worked out alright.

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