Young campers are often excited and hopeful for wild animal sightings. Older and more experienced campers, on the other hand, are a bit more wary of the dangers and risks of animal encounters. With humans developing land and agriculture farther and farther across the earth’s natural forests, more and more wild animal encounters are being reported—some with injuries but few with deaths. And you don’t have to be a seasoned outdoorsman to be caught in an animal encounter. Average citizens could come across wild animals while walking their dogs or taking a hike through the trails. Because these situations are inevitable and fairly unpredictable, it is important for every person—campers and non-campers alike—to be familiar with the safety precautions and procedures to take. If you stumble upon a critter in your neighborhood, you wouldn’t want it to attack your pet or chase you home. And if you meet a dangerous animal in its natural habitat while camping, you wouldn’t want it to attack your campsite, hurting your camp mates and pulverizing your nice Kelty tents in the process.
The most commonly sighted animals include but are not limited to mountain lions, bears, wolves and snakes. Cougar sightings are more and more frequent, even in suburban backyards. The good thing is they are not difficult to scare off. If you are with a child, do not leave the child alone as the weakest person will get attacked first. When facing a mountain lion, stand tall, wave your arms in big motions and make loud noises. If it’s possible, throw heavy objects at the creature, such as stones and sticks. To avoid crossing paths with a mountain lion, make as much noise as you can wherever you go so they are not attracted toward you.
If come across a bear, remember that it does not see you as its next meal. Bears are usually not aggressive unless they are provoked or startled. First, determine what type of bear you’re up against. If it looks to be only a few hundred pounds and very dark, it’s probably a black bear. Brown bears, also known as grizzly bears, are distinguishable by the hump muscles in their upper back, not to mention they are three or four times the size of a black bear. Use nearby objects as weapons to fight off a black bear. But never fight a grizzly. Stand as tall as possible and if it knocks you down, play dead.
Wolf sightings are significantly less common, although sightings have been more frequent in far off towns where starving wolves look for food on human settlements. You most likely will not see a wolf unless you’re very deep into the woods, far away from human establishments. And very rarely do wolves attack or chase humans. If you are faced with one, use the same methods to scare it off as you would to scare away a mountain lion.
Snake encounters are far more common and much easier to survive. Always be prepared to treat snakebites if you are hiking on trails. Protect your legs and ankles with long pants tucked into your socks. The best way to survive snakebites is to avoid them. Familiarize yourself with the sound of rattle snakes and know when to stay away.
These are only a few of the commonly reported animal sightings. Before setting off on a camping trip, check with your campground officials to find out what animals are nearby so you can be better prepared for accidental encounters.