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What To Do If You See A Wild Animal On A Hike

A hiker in the mountains

Hiking the great outdoors is an iconic pastime enjoyed by millions every year. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a casual stroller, or a backpack enthusiast, you’ve probably experienced a hairy situation once or twice on your walks. Understanding how to react to wild animals can save your life one day!

We’ll be covering the following animals in this article:

  • Black Bears
  • Grizzly Bears
  • Coyotes
  • Moose
  • Snakes
  • Mountain Lions
  • Bobcats
  • Wolves
  • Wild Boars (Wild Pigs)
  • Alligators

Follow along as we go over what to do when encountering a wild animal on a hike. We’ll review all the scenarios and give you a step-by-step guide on reacting.

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Black Bears

What To Do If You See A Black Bear On A Hike. How to identify a black bear.

If you plan to hike in bear country, it’s a good idea to understand how to react to a bear encounter. It’s always better to have the information and not need it than go in blind and unprepared.

There are three species of bears that you could interact with, depending on what region you are hiking:

  • Black bear (most of North America)
  • Brown (grizzly) bear (Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Canada)
  • Polar bear (western and northern Alaska, Canada)

There are different ways to handle each bear, so let’s break it down and look at how to react to a black bear encounter on a hike.

What To Do If You Encounter A Black Bear

Your reaction to a black bear encounter will not be the same for a grizzly or polar bear, so the first and most crucial step is identifying if the animal is actually a black bear.

Look for prominent ears that are more pointed than rounded, black fur (though some black bears have a brown coat), and the lack of a hump on the shoulder blades. This indicates you are seeing a black bear, not a grizzly.

Once you have identified that you’re dealing with a black bear, here are some suggestions on what to do:

  • If the bear hasn’t noticed you: Back away slowly and quietly. You do NOT want to startle a black bear! Retreat to your vehicle if possible.
  • If the bear has noticed you but is not approaching: Speak in a calm voice and back away. Do not run, and do not turn your back on the bear. Say ‘Hey bear’ or ‘Hey buddy’ calmly.
  • If the bear retreats up a tree, snorts or starts pawing at the ground: Again speak calmly and back away – these are signs that the black bear feels threatened.
  • When a black bear approaches you or starts to follow you: Stand your ground. Wave your arms, yell, and make as much noise as possible to scare it off.
  • If a black bear continues to follow you or tries to make contact: Fight back with whatever you have on hand. Aim for the snout, as this is a vulnerable spot for black bears.

Remember, black bears do not usually attack humans. Healthy black bears will run from people nine times out of ten. Fatal black bear attacks only happen about once every three years in the United States.

To put this in perspective, there were 8,600 bear sightings in Connecticut alone in 2021, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Of those 8,600 sightings, zero were fatal. 

How To Avoid Black Bear Encounters

When you decide to hike in the woods, you’re signing a silent agreement that you may come in contact with wild animals. The best you can do is prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario and hope for a confrontation-free hike.

To avoid encounters with black bears, follow these bear safety tips:

  • Never store food or scented toiletries in your tent or car in Bear country
  • Do not allow food to spill into the campfire
  • Dispose of all scraps and grease 100 yards downwind of your camp
  • Use a bear bag or bear canister to protect your food and scented toiletries
  • Never try to sneak past a bear
  • If hiking with your dog in bear country, place noisemakers or bells on the dog so they do not accidentally startle a bear. 
  • If possible, hike in groups. (If you decide to hike alone, we have a great article on how to hike alone safely here!)

If you encounter a black bear while hiking, consider reporting it to the National Park Service, a park ranger, or the state’s local wildlife agency. This can help these agencies better understand black bear patterns and behaviors. 

For a more in-depth look, check out our article on what to do if you see a black bear. We go over where black bears are most likely to be found and a more detailed description of how to handle encounters.

Grizzly Bears (Brown Bears)

A Grizzly Bear On A Hike, a wild animal on a hike

Grizzly bears are not as widespread as black bears, but encounters with them tend to be more dangerous. Grizzly bears are not as easily scared off as black bears and are more protective of their cubs.

In the United States, you can only find grizzly bears in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and southern Colorado.

Grizzly bears are intimidating; there’s no denying it. But not every encounter with a grizzly ends in injury or fatality. There are ways to peacefully see a grizzly bear on a hike.

What To Do If You Encounter A Grizzly Bear

Many of the actions you take for black bears are the same for grizzly bears. The aim of the encounter is to avoid escalating the situation. You want the bear to recognize you as a human and understand that you are not a threat.

  • If the grizzly hasn’t noticed you: If the grizzly is sleeping or there’s loud running water, it may not see you. In this case, slowly back away from the area and try to find somewhere safe such as your car or a shelter.
  • The grizzly has seen you: Slowly back away from the area, speak calmly to the bear, and avoid direct eye contact.
  • If the grizzly stands up: Bears have poor eyesight compared with their sense of smell and hearing. They stand up to get a better look. Treat this as if it were any other encounter and slowly back away, speak calmly, and avoid eye contact.
  • The grizzly charges: When a grizzly bear charges, stand your ground but prepare any protection you have, such as Counter Assault’s Bear Deterrent Spray.

Grizzly bear charges come in two forms: bluff and real. When a grizzly bluffs, it will likely have its head up as it charges and leaps toward you. It may be a real charge if it puts its head down, ears back, and runs like an off-rail train at you. Either way, stand your ground. 

  • The grizzly bear attacks: Keep your pack on, lay on your stomach, spread your legs, and place your hands on the back of your neck. Remain on the ground until the bear leaves the area.

Spreading your legs will help keep you on your stomach if the grizzly tries to flip you over. Leaving your pack on will help protect your spine while your hands protect your neck. Always make sure the grizzly has left the area before getting up. If you get up and the bear is still around, it may attack again.

  • Grizzly bears with cubs: If you encounter a mama bear with cubs, slowly back away from the area while speaking calmly. Avoid getting between the mother and the cubs and give them plenty of space to escape.

Grizzly bears are considered more aggressive than black bears. There’s an average of about 44 grizzly attacks yearly, while there is only one black bear attack each year. 

Grizzlies are more likely to attack if they are startled, scared, hungry, or protecting their cubs. Otherwise, they typically want nothing to do with humans and will scamper off if they can. You can check out our article on what to do if you see a grizzly bear on a hike for more in-depth information!

How To Avoid Grizzly Bear Encounters

Any encounter with a grizzly bear can become dangerous, but certain situations are less safe than others. Always practice bear safety to avoid aggressive encounters. Remember, grizzly bears aren’t out to get you. For the most part, they just want to be left alone.

That said, here are a few ways that you can avoid grizzly bear encounters.

  • Use bear bags or canisters on overnight hikes
  • Hike in groups
  • Clap or speak loudly occasionally while hiking to let bears know you are near
  • Avoid dense vegetation and low-visibility areas when possible
  • Never corner a bear or block their escape route
  • Do not use headphones
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Avoid carcasses and carrion birds

Before you start your hike in bear country, ensure you have all the essentials in your bag. We have some great tips on what to pack in your hiking bag. It’s one less thing you have to worry about while walking in grizzly territory!

If you encounter a grizzly bear, peaceful or not, report it to the rangers station or local wildlife agency. This helps them keep track of grizzly bear encounters, and they can warn folks about bear sightings on specific trails.

Coyotes

No other animal on the planet is as adaptable and cunning as the coyote. These clever canines have endured the prosecution of state-wide hunts, government-backed elimination laws, and the wrath of ranchers. Still, they’ve come out on top and increased their population and range.

Seeing a coyote on a hike is an infrequent occurrence. Coyotes prefer to avoid being seen by people and try to stay out of site by using any cover they can during the day and only coming out during twilight hours and nighttime.

Despite this, you may encounter a coyote on a hike, even if it is during the day. Understanding how to react to a coyote sighting will help keep you and any companions you brought safe (human or canine).

What To Do If You Encounter A Coyote

Coyotes will usually scamper away as soon as they see a human. They are naturally skittish around people and would rather not have a confrontation with us. 

If you encounter a coyote on a hike, here are a few steps to ensure a peaceful interaction.

  • Do not run away: Seeing a potential carnivore may be intimidating, but it’s important not to run away. Running may trigger the coyote’s natural instinct to chase down prey.
  • Keep dogs and kids under control: Pull your dog and/or children close to you. Avoid bending down to pick them up – this makes you appear smaller. Medium and large dogs are viewed as competition for food, while small dogs and children are seen as prey.
  • Assess the situation: Do you see just one coyote, or are there more? Are there pups? Is the coyote near food?
  • If there is more than one coyote: Encountering more than one or two coyotes means you’ve probably found their den. Back away slowly from the area while maintaining eye contact. Continue to back away, even if the coyotes follow you, until you are far enough away that they stop approaching you.
  • If there are one or two coyotes: If you spot one or two coyotes, they are most likely out looking for food. Let them be if they trot away. If they stop to look at you, seem curious, or start approaching you, stand your ground.
  • Look big: If the coyote is not leaving the area even after it sees you, make yourself appear as large as possible. Wave your arms over your head or open up your jacket.
  • Make noise: When the coyote still does not leave the area, start making noise. Clap, yell, bang a stick against a tree. Use whatever you have on hand to try to scare the coyote.
  • Haze bold coyotes: If a coyote still does not leave the area at this point, you may need to haze it. Throw rocks or sticks near the coyote and at its feet to encourage it to go.

There have only been two recorded fatalities due to a coyote attack. Seeing a coyote is rare, and it’s even more rare for one to attack. In most cases, coyotes will flee as soon as they see you. Or, if they’re hidden, they will remain out of sight until you leave the area.

By the way, we have a more in-depth article on what to do if you see a coyote here!

How To Avoid Coyote Encounters

Coyotes are historically diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. However, they’ve switched their schedules and become more nocturnal to avoid people. This is good news for us, but it doesn’t mean you’ll never see a coyote during the day.

Here are a few tips to avoid coyote encounters on a hike:

  • Hike in the daytime
  • Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk or at night
  • Hike in groups
  • Make noise as you hike to alert coyotes that you are nearby
  • Never feed a coyote
  • If a coyote is following you, know that you are probably near its den and should leave the area
  • Never approach a carcass and avoid areas with carrion birds
  • Avoid using headphones 
  • Keep dogs on a non-retractable leash

Dogs may be one of the biggest instigators of a bad encounter with a coyote. An article in the Journal of Human Dimensions of Wildlife looked at 119 articles discussing human-coyote interactions. Of these, 91 involved dogs, and 92.3% of those interactions were due to off-leash dogs.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with bringing your dog on a hike! We always recommend using a non-retractable leash. The Front Range Dog Leash has a hand loop on both ends of the leash so you can have complete control of your dog during a wildlife encounter.

Moose

A bull moose making a mating call

It may not be a carnivore, but moose can be just as dangerous as bears or coyotes when they want to be! But, more often than not, these gentle giants will scatter when they see you. 

Moose live in northern climates like Alaska, Canada, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Michigan, as well as most of the northeast from New York and upwards. Since moose cannot tolerate the heat, you’ll never see them in warm climates.

Encounters with moose are uncommon. They typically enjoy forested areas near water but can occasionally be spotted in an open field. Most encounters with these massive animals are neutral, with the moose scurrying away or otherwise not reacting.

What To Do If You Encounter A Moose

Moose that live closer to human habitation may not be as easily startled by seeing a human. However, those that live in the wild will most likely run away as soon as they see, smell, or hear you.

If you are hiking and spot a moose, here’s what to do:

  • Give them space: Avoid getting close to a moose or harassing it. Even though it may seem docile, never approach a moose. Give them plenty of room.
  • Never block an exit: If you’ve spotted a moose, ensure you’re not blocking their means of escape. This can cause them to become confrontational.
  • Make noise while hiking: When hiking in moose country, let them know you’re there by talking periodically or banging your walking stick occasionally. A startled moose is more likely to lash out.
  • If the moose is agitated, look for cover: Signs that a moose is getting agitated include raised fur, ears pinned back, and licking their lips. If you see these signs, look for the nearest tree, fence, or berm between you and the moose.
  • Run: Unlike coyotes and bears, running from moose is okay. If there’s no cover between you and the moose, run! They won’t chase you for long. They just want you to get away and out of their space.
  • Treat every moose charge as if it’s real: Most moose charges are bluffs, but it’s essential to treat every charge as if it’s the real thing. Take cover behind a tree or vehicle if a moose charges.
  • When knocked down, stay down: If a moose knocks you to the ground, curl in a ball, protect your head, and lie still. Wait until the moose has left the area before getting up.
  • Never get between a mother and her calf: Moose typically give birth around late spring to early summer. Be especially vigilant at this time and avoid getting between a mama moose and her calf!

Moose attacks are extremely rare, with most occurring in Alaska and Canada due to the higher moose population. However, it’s crucial to treat these gentle giants with respect and to give them plenty of space.

How To Avoid Moose Encounters

Depending on the type of hike you plan, you may actually want to see a moose! However, if it’s not on the agenda, here are some tips and tricks to avoid moose encounters.

  • Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk
  • Hike in groups
  • Make noise as you hike
  • Never harass a moose
  • Never feed a moose
  • Be especially vigilant in September and October due to mating season
  • Take care in late spring and early summer to avoid running into a mother moose and calf
  • Avoid swampy, wet areas, as moose enjoy these environments
  • Hike in warm climates
  • Avoid areas with moose tracks or droppings

Even with all this in mind, you may still run into a moose as it slowly strolls in the forest. Give them space, don’t approach them, and you will be just fine!

Want more information on moose? Check out our in-depth article on what to do if you see a moose!

Snakes

Snakes have a way of polarizing people like no other animal. You’re either fascinated by them or terrified of them. No matter which category you fall into, we have some great tips on what to do if you see one of these ‘nope ropes’ on a hike!

There are over 3,000 species of snakes worldwide, but an article from the National Library of Medicine tells us that only about 300 – 450 are venomous.

In the United States, there are only 4 species of venomous snakes:

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Copperheads
  • Cottonmouths
  • Coral Snakes

Now, let’s look at what you should do if you encounter a snake, venomous or not, along your favorite hiking trail.

What To Do If You Encounter A Snake

It’s common to see snakes basking on rocks near the water, hiding in leaf litter, or stretched out on the sunny pavement in the early morning or late evening.

Snakes are ectotherms, so they depend on the environment to warm and cool their bodies. This means they will likely hang out in sunny spots in the morning and evening and hide in the shade during the day.

If you encounter a snake on the trail, here are a few suggestions on what to do:

  • Keep your distance: Give the snake plenty of space, allowing it to move away without feeling threatened. Maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet (or more) between you and the snake.
  • Do not provoke: Refrain from making sudden movements or attempting to touch the snake, as this can cause it to feel cornered and potentially react defensively.
  • Observe and appreciate: Use this opportunity to observe the snake from a safe distance and enjoy its beauty and role in the ecosystem.
  • Alert fellow hikers: If you’re hiking in a group or there are other hikers nearby, calmly inform them of the snake’s presence so they can take the necessary precautions.

The best thing you can do when encountering a snake while hiking is to leave it alone. Snakes want nothing to do with humans and, for the most part, are shy, elusive creatures.

Snakes will never chase you intentionally and are not inherently aggressive. They only become bitey when they are provoked or feel cornered or threatened. For a more in-depth look at snakes, read our article on what to do if you see a snake on a hike.

How To Avoid Snake Encounters

It’s only natural that many hikers want to avoid snake encounters. Only a few weirdos out there seek out these slithery creatures (It’s me, I am the weirdo). So, to avoid meeting with a danger noodle, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid hiking in the early morning or late evening – this is when snakes are most active.
  • Know where snakes are most likely to be:
    • Leaf litter
    • Rock crevices
    • Under logs
    • River banks
    • Near water sources
    • Dense vegetation or tall grass
  • Watch out for unusual shapes along the trail – this could be a curled snake. 
  • If you suddenly smell a strong, musky odor, avoid the area. This is a defense mechanism by some snakes, meaning a snake is nearby.
  • Listen for rustling leaves or a rattling tail to signal a snake is in the area.

Snakes are more common on trails than bears or moose, but they are much easier to avoid. As long as you respect their space and give them plenty of room, they won’t bother you. 

Remember, snakes are a vital part of our ecosystem. They help control the rodent population, which reduces the prevalence of Lyme and other ailments. They’re also food for birds of prey, such as owls and hawks. 

So, the next time you see a snake, give it a wide berth and appreciate its role in our world!

Mountain Lions

What to do if you see a mountain lion on a hike, a wild anoimal on a hike

Mountain lions are elusive creatures that often prowl out of sight. Like coyotes, they actively try to avoid people and would rather not have a confrontation.

Only about 14 states in the US have established mountain lion populations, so these big cats aren’t a problem for most hikers. However, it’s good to know what to do in case of a mountain lion encounter while hiking.

Let’s check out what you should do in case you see one of these large cats while hiking in the mountains or in a lush forest.

What To Do If You Encounter A Mountain Lion

When encountering any wild animal, it’s essential to remain calm. Remember that most wildlife wants nothing to do with people. 

Encounters with mountain lions are very rare. The California Department of Fish And Wildlife states that since 1986, there have been 21 mountain lion attacks on people. To put that in perspective, there are at least that many bear attacks per year.

You are not likely to encounter a mountain lion on a hike, let alone worry about being attacked. However, it’s much better to be prepared for any situation.

If you encounter a mountain lion, here’s what to do:

  • Stay calm and maintain eye contact: First things first, keep your cool! Lock eyes with the mountain lion and avoid looking away or turning your back. This shows the animal that you’re aware of its presence and are not an easy target.
  • Appear larger: Stand tall, raise your arms slowly, and open your jacket (if you’re wearing one) to look bigger and more intimidating. If you have small children with you, pick them up without bending over. Remember, bending over can make you appear smaller, so squat down instead.
  • Speak firmly and calmly: Use your voice as a powerful tool to show the mountain lion that you’re not prey. Speak in a firm, confident tone, but avoid yelling or making high-pitched sounds, as this might provoke the animal.
  • Back away slowly: It’s time for the moonwalk! Without turning your back on the mountain lion, gradually create distance between you and the animal. Avoid running, as this may trigger a chase response.

In most cases, the mountain lion will scurry off once it realizes you are there. In the rare case when a lion doesn’t leave the area and appears to become aggressive, throw objects at the cat to let it know you are not easy prey.

Shout at the lion if it starts approaching you, and in the infrequent occurrence when a mountain lion attacks, fight back with anything you have. Protect your head and neck as much as possible, as this is what mountain lions aim for when taking down prey.

How To Avoid Mountain Lion Encounters

Me personally, I would rather avoid mountain lion encounters altogether! Sure, these big cats are majestic, but I’d rather not tango with one!

To keep your hike feline-free, follow these tips:

  • Hike in groups: Mountain lions are less likely to approach a group of people, so grab your pals and make it a social outing!
  • Make noise: Chat, sing, or whistle while you hike to avoid surprising a resting mountain lion. They’re usually not fans of our musical talents, so they’ll keep their distance.
  • Keep dogs leashed: Dogs can attract mountain lions, especially if they wander off. Keep your furry friends on a leash to avoid any unwanted attention. As always, we love recommending Ruffwear’s Front Range Dog Leash.
  • Carry bear spray or an air horn: Although not a guaranteed deterrent, carrying bear spray or an air horn can help scare off a mountain lion if needed. Counter Assault’s Bear Deterrent Spray + Holster is an excellent last-resort defense.
  • Keep children close: Mountain lions may be more inclined to attack smaller prey, so keep your little ones close and within sight.
  • Avoid dawn and dusk: Mountain lions are most active during these hours, so plan your hikes for daylight hours when possible.

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your hike without fearing running into a mountain lion. For a more in-depth look at mountain lion behavior and a guide on what to do when encountering them, check out our article on what to do if you see a mountain lion on a hike.

Bobcats

bobcat in the woods

Bobcats are medium-sized wild cats that are far more numerous than we think! They can be found in every state in the U.S. except Delaware and Hawaii. They can be found in various habitats ranging from dense forests to deserts to mountains.

These elusive animals are rarely seen by people. They would much rather avoid a confrontation with us and are considered non-aggressive. In fact, there isn’t much data out there at all about bobcat attacks on people due to their rarity!

But, just to be on the safe side, let’s talk about what you should do if you encounter one of these evasive animals on a hike!

What To Do If You Encounter A Bobcat On A Hike

Encountering a wild cat can send your heart pumping and your muscles tingling. After all, you’re seeing a predator! It’s pretty different than stumbling on a deer or raccoon.

That said, seeing a bobcat is no cause for panic. Compared to other animals on our list, bobcats are typically the least likely to attack people. Texas’s The Colony states that bobcat attacks are virtually unknown, and there are no confirmed statistics of bobcat attacks on people.

Here’s what to do if you see a bobcat on a hike:

  • Stay Calm and Assess the Situation: Determine how close the bobcat is, if there is more than one bobcat, and how the cat is acting.
  • Maintain your distance: Give bobcats plenty of space, at least 150 feet. Never approach a bobcat.
  • Speak softly: Use a gentle, reassuring tone. Loud or aggressive noises may startle or provoke the animal, so avoid yelling at the cat.
  • Avoid direct eye contact: Use your peripheral vision to observe the bobcat. Making direct eye contact may be perceived as a threat.
  • Stay on the trail: Keep to designated hiking paths to minimize the chances of stumbling upon a bobcat.
  • Know the signs of bobcat presence: Familiarize yourself with the indicators of a bobcat’s presence. These include paw prints, scat, and scratches on trees.

Seeing a bobcat shouldn’t have to ruin your hike. With these tips in mind, you can safely observe these beautiful creatures and share a moment of tranquility in nature. For a more detailed article on bobcats, refer to our article on what to do if you see a bobcat on a hike.

How To Avoid Bobcat Encounters

Despite the low risk associated with a bobcat encounter, some folks would rather avoid them altogether. We totally get it! This can be especially apparent for those hiking with pets or kids.

So, how can you avoid bobcats while hiking? Follow along as we go over some tips and tricks for avoiding these spotted cats on the trail:

  • Make noise: We’re not saying to blast music or scream at the top of your lungs, but make some noise as you hike with a conversation, humming, or banging your trekking poles off a rock every once in a while. This helps alert your presence to potential bobcats, who will promptly scurry away.
  • Stay on the trail: Bobcats avoid people, so if you stick to the path where there are lots of people, you are far less likely to encounter a bobcat. 
  • Keep pets leashed: Keep your dog or cat leashed on a hike to avoid accidental encounters. Bobcats may perceive larger dogs as competition for the same food source and smaller dogs as prey.
  • Hike during the day: Bobcats are most active at dawn and dusk. Hiking during the day will lower your chances of encountering a bobcat.
  • Hike in groups: There’s power in numbers! Bobcats are far less likely to approach a group of hikers than a solo hiker. 

So there you have it! These tips and advice will give you the knowledge to hike safely in bobcat territory. And remember, bobcats are typically shy creatures, so even if you see one on a hike, there’s no need to panic! Keep your distance and observe these wonderful felines in their natural habitat.

Wolves

Wolf on a hike, wolves laying around.

If nothing else, wolves are the symbol of true wilderness. These canines represent all there is to be a true, wild carnivore. But wolves have so much more to offer than just their fierce exterior and close familial ties.

Once pushed to near extinction, wolves have made a tremendous comeback. Colorado State University backs this up by stating that there are around 300,000 wolves on planet Earth today! 

Most wolves live in Alaska and Canada, but they also have steady populations in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Smaller populations live in Washington, Oregon, and California. Wolves are even starting to enter Colorado.

Arizona and New Mexico have a small population of Mexican wolves – a subspecies of the gray wolf. Red wolves only occur in North Carolina and are considered critically endangered.

So, now that you know a little history of these majestic creatures, let’s check out what to do if you encounter a wolf while hiking!

What To Do If You Encounter A Wolf On A Hike

Encountering a wolf on a hike is extremely rare. While it might send your heart pumping and nerves rattling, a wild wolf encounter is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you happen to see one (or a pack) of these canines, here are some tips to stay safe and enjoy this rare moment:

  • Maintain Your Distance: If you spot a wolf, do not approach it. Aim for a distance of at least 150 feet from the animal.
  • Avoid Direct Eye Contact: Keep your gaze slightly averted from the wolf. Direct eye contact may be viewed as a sign of aggression by the wolf.
  • Look big: Stand tall, raise your arms, open your jacket, or wave your trekking poles around. This helps you look bigger and less appetizing to a wolf.
  • Slowly Back Away: The best way to interact with a wolf is to simply back away and allow the animal to go about its business. Wolves don’t want anything to do with people. They will likely keep moving on without bothering you if you back away.
  • Pick Up Kids And Pets: Wolves may see larger dogs as competitors and smaller dogs as prey. It’s best to pick up kids and small pets and keep larger dogs on a leash if you encounter a wolf.
  • If a wolf attacks: In the unlikely event that a wolf acts aggressively or attacks, fight back with whatever you have on hand. Bear spray, trekking poles, rocks, and sticks are all good options to defend yourself. 

Wolf encounters are rare, and attacks are even rarer. If you see a wolf, there’s no need to panic. Simply give the animal space, back away, and marvel at nature’s elite predator. For a closer look at wolves, check out our article on what to do if you see a wolf on a hike!

How To Avoid Wolf Encounters

As a fellow hiker, I understand that walking in the woods isn’t just about getting steps in or hitting a particular mileage. It’s about seeing the wonders of nature.

For most of us avid hikers, we love seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, but…you know…the kind of wildlife that doesn’t have the potential to eat us! So, if you’d rather avoid encounters with wolves altogether, follow the below tips.

  1. Hike During the Day: Wolves are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. Plan your hiking trips for the middle of the day when wolves are resting.
  2. Hike in Groups: Wolves are far less likely to approach a group of hikers than solo hikers. Groups also have the added benefit of making noise, which can alert wolves to your presence and give them time to scamper off.
  3. Stick to the Trail: Wolves are secretive and try to avoid humans as much as possible. For this reason, they are less likely to wander near designated hiking trails.
  4. Store Food Correctly: If you’re planning an overnight adventure in the backcountry, store your food correctly to avoid attracting wolves to your campsite.

Seems pretty simple, right? With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your hiking adventure without the fear of encountering a wolf. However, if you do, you’ll be prepared with the information we provided above.

Remember, wolves try to avoid humans as much as possible. To encounter one is rare; most encounters end with a peaceful resolution. So, enjoy your hike and stay wild!

Wild Boars

A wild boar walking in the woods

Wild boars, or wild pigs, are often touted as one of the more dangerous animals to encounter while hiking. However, like most news stories, this danger is often overexaggerated.

Wild pigs prefer to avoid humans and would rather walk away from a hiker than confront them unless under specific circumstances. In most instances where a wild pig attacks a human, it’s because a hunter injured it or a sow was protecting her young.

That said, wild pigs are still wild animals! They should be given the proper space and respect so you and the pig can coexist on the trails.

What To Do If You Encounter A Wild Pig On A Hike

Wild pigs are only found in some places. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Georgia have the highest feral pig population. Still, these porkers are found in at least 30 states across the United States. 

While it may not sound as intimidating as running into a grizzly or mountain lion, wild pigs can reach weights of over 200 pounds! They’re certainly nothing to be trifled with!

 If you happen to come across one of these beasties, here’s what to do:

  • Remain calm: There’s no need to panic. Animals can sense our tension and panic, so the more relaxed you are, the calmer the pig will be.
  • Stand your ground: It’s understandable to feel like running when confronted with a 200-pound wild pig! But standing your ground is essential, as running could trigger a chase instinct.
  • Retain eye contact: Maintain eye contact with a wild pig that approaches you. This lets the pig know that you see it and you’re not their next meal! Yes – wild pigs are omnivores, so they will eat meat. 
  • Back Away: Slowly back away from the pig while avoiding turning your back. Slowly is the key here – any sudden movements may startle the pig into thinking you’re a threat.
  • Use your voice: If the wild pig keeps approaching you, use your voice to discourage it from getting any closer. You can also clap your hands or make noise to shoo it away.

The important thing to remember when encountering a wild pig (or any wildlife) is that they aren’t out to get you. Most wildlife would rather avoid confrontations with people! So, enjoy your hike, stay wild, and respect the wild!

How To Avoid Wild Pig Encounters

Avoiding wild pig encounters doesn’t have to involve any elaborate planning. By following our tips below, you can enjoy a pig-free hike. And just in case you do run into one of these rascals, follow the steps outlined above to enjoy a peaceful encounter.

Here are some suggestions to avoid wild boars while hiking:

  • Hike during the day: Wild pigs are most active at dawn, dusk, and during the night. Hiking during the day will lower your chances of running into a wild pig.
  • Stay on the path: Healthy wild pigs will avoid humans whenever possible. Staying on marked trails makes you far less likely to encounter a wild pig.
  • Stay aware while hiking: As with any hike, always be mindful of your surroundings. Look for signs of wild pig activity, such as overturned soil, muddy patches, mud rubbings on trees, or pig vocalizations.
  • Store food properly on overnight hikes: Whether in bear, pig, wolf, or coyote territory, always store your food correctly on overnight trips. Place them in sealed containers or hang them in bear bags in trees to avoid attracting wild pigs to your campsite.
  • Keep your distance: If you encounter a wild pig on a hike, keep your distance. Do not approach, feed, or harass a wild boar.

With these tips in mind, your hikes will be a peaceful stroll in the woods instead of a stressful encounter with a wild pig! If you’d like more information on feral pigs, check out our article on what to do if you see a wild pig on a hike!

Next, let’s look at how to handle alligator encounters! 

Alligators

Alligator on a hike swimming

Alligators, the only aquatic animal on our list, are our final topic! Let’s dive in and get all the details on these prehistoric reptiles and what you should do if you see one on a hike.

First, let’s talk about alligator temperament. They have a million teeth, huge claws, and they’re super aggressive, right? Despite what the movies would have us believe, alligators are timid creatures. They have around 80 teeth and use their claws for gripping and climbing, not catching prey.

Alligators can grow to substantial sizes, which is one of the reasons why many hikers are concerned about running into them. However, you have very little to worry about if you come face-to-face with these massive reptiles!

What To Do If You Encounter An Alligator On A Hike

Gators have been around for a long, loooooong time. The University of Texas tells us that alligators have been around for about 80 million years! These animals were once close to extinction but have made a remarkable comeback.

If you’re hiking in alligator territory, be aware of your surroundings and keep a close eye out for signs of alligators, such as tracks, gator noises, and burrows near banks.

If you encounter one of these scaled creatures while hiking, follow these steps for a peaceful encounter:

  • Give them space: Gators aren’t big fans of getting close and personal with people. Give the animal plenty of space – at least 20 feet if possible. Never corner an alligator or make it feel like it has nowhere to escape.
  • Never feed an alligator: Feeding animals may seem merciful, but it’s actually the worst thing you can do for them. Alligators that are fed get habituated to humans and become bold. This type of behavior often ends with the animal being eliminated.
  • Back away from the gator: Especially if it hisses or lunges at you. These are clear signs that you’ve gotten too close to the alligator. Like most predators, avoid running or turning your back on the alligator, which may trigger a chase response. 
  • Go for the snout: In the unlikely event of an alligator attack, aim for the eyes and snout of the alligator. These sensitive areas may stun them and give you enough time to escape.

Seeing an alligator on a hike can be a thrilling experience. With these tips in mind, you can hike safely in gator territory! For a closer look at hiking with alligators, check out our article on what to do if you see an alligator on a hike!

How To Avoid Alligator Encounters

Unless you’re a weirdo like me, you would probably rather not see an alligator on your hike. I get it – they’re not fluffy wildlife like deer or foxes. Alligator encounters can be especially nerve-wracking for pet parents, too.

If you’d rather have a gator-free hike, follow these tips to avoid them:

  • Know Your Season: Firstly, knowing when alligators are most active is essential. Typically, they’re less lively during the cooler months, so planning your hikes in late fall or winter might reduce your chances of crossing paths with these prehistoric predators.
  • Avoid the Water: Alligators love water – it’s their home, after all. Be extra cautious if your hiking trail is near a body of freshwater, especially a still one like a pond or a swamp. Avoid swimming or wading in these areas at all costs. Dawn and dusk are when alligators often feed, so steer clear of water sources during these times.
  • Make Your Presence Known: Unlike some wildlife where silence is golden, making noise can alert alligators to your presence and give them time to retreat. A simple conversation with your hiking buddy or playing music softly could be enough to keep these reptiles at bay.
  • Keep Your Distance: If you see an alligator, give it space – lots of it. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least 60 feet away. Never corner an alligator or attempt to feed it; it’s not only dangerous but also illegal in many places.
  • Dealing with Encounters: Despite your best efforts, what if you still encounter an alligator? Back away slowly, and don’t turn your back on it. Never try to outrun an alligator; despite their bulky appearance, they can move surprisingly fast over short distances.

Hiking in alligator territory can feel intimidating, but remembering these tips can significantly reduce potential encounters and ensure your safety. It’s all about respect – respecting the wild, respecting the creatures that live there, and respecting the fact that when we hike, we’re entering their home. 

So, lace up those hiking boots, pack your common sense, and enjoy the amazing experiences that hiking brings, alligator-free!

Spotting A Wild Animal On A Hike

Alright, friends! We’ve taken quite the journey together, haven’t we? We’ve shared some heart-pounding moments, imagining meeting a black bear on our path, locking eyes with a grizzly, or coming across a coyote. We’ve felt the shivers of spotting a snake, wild pig, alligator, bobcat, mountain lion, or even a wolf. 

But remember, these encounters don’t have to be scary. They can be awe-inspiring reminders of the incredible wildlife that shares our hiking trails.

Throughout this adventure, we’ve learned some crucial tips for these encounters. If you meet a bear, whether a black bear or the more aggressive grizzly, always make yourself appear bigger, back away slowly, and avoid direct eye contact. 

For a coyote or a wolf, stand tall and assertive, wave your arms, and throw stones if they approach too closely. 

If a snake slithers by, give it plenty of space, and it’ll likely go about its business. 

With wild pigs and alligators, it’s all about keeping a safe distance. 

And for bobcats and mountain lions, make noise and try to look larger to discourage any idea of them seeing you as prey.

But, most importantly, we’ve learned how to coexist peacefully with these magnificent creatures. Remember, when we lace up our boots and hit the trails, we step into their homes. It’s all about respect and understanding that we’re visitors in their territory.

So, let’s keep our cool when we cross paths with wildlife. Keep your distance, stay calm, and never, ever feed them. These simple rules will ensure both you and our wild friends remain safe.


And hey, don’t let a little wildlife scare you off the trails! Continue to explore, continue to respect, and continue to marvel at the wild world around us. After all, isn’t that why we adventure out in the first place? So, grab your hiking boots, maybe a furry friend, and let’s hit the trails again soon. Always remembering, of course, to tread lightly and leave no trace. Happy hiking, pals!

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