Distance = Safety. Wildlife encounters become more dangerous the closer you get to the animal. In fact, most animals don't want to deal with humans.
Knowing what to do in the event of a wildlife encounter is crucial. Every encounter is different, but the following can help you avoid an attack. ALL wildlife are capable of attacking a human if it feels threatened. The likelihood of an attack drops the further away you stay and the less intrusive you are to the animal. Never throw objects or make loud sounds or sudden movements to get an animal's attention. Animals could perceive that as a threat and attack.
Below are proper ways to respond when encountered by wildlife:
Stand tall and make yourself look larger.
Act aggressively towards it -- make noise and throw objects.
Calmly, but slowly back away and maintain eye contact.
If the wolf does not run away immediately, continue making yourself large, maintaining eye contact, and backing away.
Do not turn your back on the wolf and do not run away.
(Credit: MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks)
Mountain Lion (Cougar).
Do Not Approach a Lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
Do Not Run from a Lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Do not turn your back. Make eye contact. If there are small children nearby, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
Do Not Crouch Down or Bend Over. A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. When in mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
Appear Larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
Be vocal—Talk calmly and regularly.
If a mountain lion attacks. If you are unarmed, you can use bear pepper spray to deter the lion. Many potential victims have also fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
(Credit: MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks)
Do not approach moose. Give them as wide a berth as possible.
Back off, and look for the nearest tree, fence, building, car, or other obstruction to duck behind.
Signs of aggressive moose:
A moose that sees you and walks slowly towards you is not trying to be your friend; it is warning you to keep away.
During the fall mating season, in late September and October, bull moose may be aggressive toward humans. In late spring and summer, cow moose with young calves are very protective and will attack humans who come too close.
If you see a calf and not a cow, be very careful, because you may have walked between them, which is a very dangerous place to be.
The long hairs on its hump are raised, ears laid back (much like a dog or cat), and it may lick its lips (if you can see this, you are way too close).
If a moose charges:
Fortunately most moose charges are bluffs – warnings for you to get back. Don’t wait to find out if it’s bluffing. Even a calf, which weighs 300 or 400 pounds by its first winter, can injure you. When a moose charges it often kicks forward with its front hooves.
Run or walk quickly and get behind something solid, like a tree, or retreat to a safe place, like inside a building or car. You can run around a tree faster than a moose can.
If it knocks you down, a moose may continue running or start stomping and kicking with all four feet. Curl up in a ball, protect your head with your hands, and hold still. Don't move or try to get up until the moose moves a safe distance away or it may renew its attack.
Credit: Alaska Department of Fish & Game -
Have powerful limbs
Leap as high at 15 feet (4.5 meters)
Leap as far as 40 feet (12 meters)
Taller than a horse
(6'5" at shoulder/2 meter)
Heavier than a bear
(1,800 lbs/817 kg)
Run faster than a human
(35 mph/56 k/h)
Weight: 40 - 175 lbs.
Length: 36 -63 inches
To learn more about bears and bear safety, visit YNP's Bear Safety Page.