How to be prepared for wildlife encounters on the trail

To many hikers, the idea of wildlife encounters on trail is something of an “urban” myth. But depending on where you live, it may be more than plausible and a matter of when, not if.

The good news is that wildlife encounters aren’t a reason to avoid the great outdoors. On the contrary, as with all things, being prepared is half the battle. Because while bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife do happen, there are quite a few things you can do to minimize encounters or reduce them entirely.

Wildlife Encounters by Erin Pennings for Hike it Baby

Black bear near popular hiking trail. Photo courtesy Erin Pennings.

How to Minimize Wildlife Encounters

Make noise. The bottom line is that most wildlife wants to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. So make plenty of noise so that you don’t surprise them. This can be singing, talking, or even clanging hiking poles together.

Travel in groups. Part of this comes back to making noise. The more of you there are, the more noise you make inadvertently without trying. Bonus, loud children on trail make lots of noise. Different resources recommend different group sizes, but everyone agrees that hiking with a group is the best way to minimize wildlife encounters.

Don’t wear headphones. If you wear headphones while on trail, not only are you less likely to make noise, but you’ll miss hearing key noises that might clue you in to nearby wildlife.

Pay attention to smells. Some bears can have a very distinct smell that you can detect from far away. If something smells funky, be aware of your surroundings.

Keep children and pets close by. Don’t allow them to run ahead and potentially surprise wildlife. Also consider that wildlife can come on to the trail between you and a child.

Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk. This is when many animals, including bears and mountain lions, are most active.

Wildilfe encounters by Erin Pennings for Hike it Baby

Jordan Else with an elk in background. Photo courtesy of Jordan Else.

If You Encounter Wildlife

Be sure not to separate a mother and her young. Humans aren’t the only creatures who are protective of their young. And the worst place to be is between a mother and her cubs or calves. So be watchful, and if you encounter wildlife, do your best to stay out of the middle.

Back away slowly. Make yourself seem like less of a threat and back away slowly. Don’t turn your back or run, no matter what you do. And, definitely, don’t approach the animal.

Talk slowly and quietly. This ties back into making yourself seem like less of a threat.

Carry pepper spray and know how to use it. Several brands offer a practice canister that you can use to get the hang of how the spray works. It’s effective against bears and mountain lions, among other large animals. Keep in mind that it only works if you’re extremely close to an animal, so it should be a last resort. And, remember not to spray into the wind. (Tip: If you absolutely must deploy the pepper spray, leave the area as soon as possible because after the intensity dissipates, curious animals may come to investigate.)

Be Prepared, but Hike at Your Own Risk

What else can you do to be prepared? If you live in bear country, wolf country, mountain lion country, moose country…anywhere that has large wildlife that can prove a threat to hikers, there are probably classes available to you. Check with the branch of the park service closest to you, whether local, state or federal, and you will find a variety of classes available to you.

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And while it goes without saying that every hike is at your own risk, keep in mind that wildlife attacks, though highly sensationalized, are rare. It’s more dangerous to get in a car every day, yet we do that without thinking twice.

So we encourage you to take appropriate precautions and have a great time making memories outdoors with your family.

8 Personal Protection Items For Hikers

Personal Protection Items for Hikers

Curious about which personal protection items to pack?

Most hikers fear three things: bears, mountain lions, and other hikers. But other sources of danger can be just as deadly. Did you know cows kill 10x as many people as bears each year? Bees, wasps, and hornets kill 58x as many.

So what should you be prepared for?

Well, it depends on your geography. We can’t know exactly which critters you’ll run across. Be sure to dive deeper than your initial cursory research when you head out for your next hike.

You’ll want to bring some gear specifically for your area. We’ve also created a list of 8 universal hiking protection items useful for every hike. Read the list below to discover more.

Satellite Communicator

These are for those of you in less imminent danger. Sometimes personal protection extends beyond aggressive encounters. Sometimes you need to protect yourself from yourself.

Even the most experienced hikers can get lost under the right circumstances. These two satellite communicators give you the exact latitude and longitude of your position. Paired with an excellent topographical map, you can find your way out of any spot even if you’re navigationally challenged.

The SPOT satellite GPS lets you track your GPS progress, ask for help, and send an S.O.S. signal. They even give you the power to create custom messages from your SPOT account online. You can post, from the trail, custom messages to 10 of your favorite folks.

SPOT Gen 3 Satellite Communicator

The DeLorme inReach Explorer global satellite communicator is a little more advanced. You can do all of the above as well as send and receive texts on the trail. It’s a bit pricier but well worth it in our opinion.


The most common danger is the nocturnal predator. Fortunately, the predators are concerned only with food, and humans are rarely on the menu. They want what’s in your backpack.

Bright Flashlight

The best method for detouring nighttime visitors involves light and loud sounds. All predators have a fear of fire. If you don’t have a fire, a high-powered flashlight is the second-best thing. Fenix flashlights are our favorite, but any that spit out beams of 100 lumens or more is a safe bet.

The more lumens, the more significant the deterrent. Remember, you want to scare off the predator, not engage the predator. Shine the light in their eyes, and make as much sound as possible to ward them away.


A good whistle around your neck is the next best thing. Before you go buying a whistle and blowing continuously as you jaunt down the trail, you should know one thing. The sound of a whistle tells other hikers that you’re in danger.

Don’t use it unless you need to. Hikers have been known to go miles out of their way to check up on a whistle blow. If you use yours haphazardly, don’t be surprised if some otherwise friendly hikers show up to give you an earful.

If you decide to carry a whistle, it’ll play dual roles. It can scare off predators or signal for help. And for less than $10, that’s one piece of equipment you can’t beat.

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As you know, loud sounds can scare off animals. That why hiking with a bell can be a grand strategy. It tells all the nearby wildlife just where you are so that they can stay away.

Commercial Bear Bells

If you’re going to carry a bell, be sure it’s one that includes a magnet. You use the magnet like a little on/off switch to stop the ringing. Otherwise, it’s sure to drive you and your companions bonkers.

Animal repellent

Well, animal repellent comes in all shapes and sizes. You can find things like ultrasonic dog repellers and you can also find Mace bear spray which will discourage anything short of a grizzly.

Hiking Bear Spray

If you’re going to purchase an animal repellent, be sure to do your research. Pay close attention. Make sure you differentiate expert opinion from hearsay, so you buy a brand you can depend on. Don’t get caught in a dire circumstance with unreliable gear.

Spend the extra money to buy quality gear that you’ll have for years to come.

Pepper spray/mace

In rare circumstances, you need to be wary of human predators. Now we don’t want to alarm you. The number of robberies that happen to hikers is rare, but there have been some.

If you’re hiking solo, especially if you’re a woman, be prepared. Carry equipment you can use to defend yourself. Make sure that equipment won’t make matters worse should your attacker get hold of it.

Did you notice we didn’t add guns or knives to this list? The reason is that they’re likely to escalate the conflict. They’re also outlawed in countless hiking areas.

Judges tend to forgive pepper spray, not Glocks. Some hikers and gun advocates will disagree. But we say leave your arsenal at home.

You’re more likely to hurt yourself or your friends than dissuade an attacker.

Stun gun

If you’re going to purchase a stun hiking stick, you’ve got to learn how to use it. They’re a great non-lethal alternative to traditional guns. In other words, they’re one item that won’t escalate the confrontation.

Personal Protection Stun Hiking Stick

Should your attacker get hold of it, it won’t cause you permanent harm. Be sure you practice with it, so you’re comfortable using the item during an emergency.


Batons have been used for thousands of years by martial artists. They’re safe, lightweight, and easy to use. At least the collapsible versions are.

Collapsible Baton

It’s worth noting that you may need a concealed carry license. Laws vary by state, so research the area you’ll be hiking before you purchase a baton.

What’s After Hiking Self Defense Items?

After you bought them, it’s time to use them. Or, more accurately, practice with them. It’s not uncommon for assault victims to hurt themselves rather than their assailants.

That’s why you practice. First, use the items against a dummy. Then get a friend to help you role play. Finally, pack all your personal protection items in your backpack, and try a few test runs.

You’ll thank the lucky stars you did if you ever find yourself in a crisis.

If you found this article helpful, take five minutes to check out the rest of our safety articles.

Learning to Protect Yourself From Wild Animals in the Forest

Wild Animals, Self Defence, Forest, Weapons

Outdoor recreational activities are fun and exciting to do, especially on long weekends. You can relax, breathe some fresh air, and be one with nature. The most common outdoor activities that people often do are camping, mountain climbing, hiking, and cycling. All of these activities are worthwhile, but you have to be really careful. All of these are done in an open field where danger and accidents are inevitable. Especially potential attacks from wild animals in the forest.

Anything can happen out in the open in a forest. In just a split second, your life might already be in a critical condition. Trees could fall off anywhere, rocks could break while you are climbing, thunder may strike when you are out camping, wild animals might appear, etc. This uncontrollable wrath of nature seems impossible to avoid since it can happen instantly, but you can avoid and prevent wild animal attacks. Here are five tips to protect yourself from wild animals in the forest.

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Bring a weapon for self-defense

Even if you think the landscape is safe and asked the veterans if there are wild animals in that area, always be prepared. Don’t lower your guard because you are out on the open in the forest. Always think two steps ahead, that is why it is important to have a weapon for self-defense. Weapons such as stick or bat would not be enough, so you need a trusty and reliable weapon for self-defense.

Personally, I bring handguns with me. A small yet reliable one is enough for me. An article on Glock 42 vs 43 pistol for self-defense handguns helped me choose what gun to bring. You can also get something similar, like a knife, bear spray, or a taser gun. Keep them holstered with you at all times.

Study the forest terrain

Before going on an outdoor activity, always study the landscape of your destination. If you are about to go camping, examine the terrain and route. Think of the possible threat and danger, check the entrance and the escape route, and most especially ask what kind of wild animals would be lurking in that forest. Even if it is just a deer or a moose, always be prepared. If you are going to hike in a mountain, make sure you know the mountain’s history first. Ask some reliable people on the news about the mountain.

Don’t run from the wild animal

If you are caught by surprise, and you cannot move anymore, do not run. Running will make you look like prey, and wild animals will often chase you when you run. Stay calm, and do not look them in the eye. If you’re in a vehicle and you see that a wild animal is chasing you, don’t leave the car. Remember that animals are faster than humans. This is where studying the terrain beforehand and identifying escape routes come in handy.

Avoid and prevent any surprise encounter

It is always best to avoid any encounter with these wild animals. You have to be very keen and watch out for fresh tracks or trails. Once you found any nearby evidence of their presence, leave immediately. Keep binoculars with you and spot any wild animal from afar. Doing this will help you and your group prepared.

Fight for your life

If all of those did not work, then fight for your life. Protect your family at all costs, look for something to be used as a weapon, or if you can reach for your gun, then do so. Aim for the eyes or at the throat and attack them violently. It is a desperate move, but it’s better than laying off dead.

As much as possible, be prepared for anything that might happen during your trip. It is a must that everyone knows how to operate a weapon. If you’re with kids, let them use a whistle or alarm. Always keep them away from dangerous areas. Of course, the best way to enjoy camping is to prevent and avoid any encounters. Let the group know not to get carried away with the fun and remind them to keep their guards up at all times when in the forest.




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