Precautions to take if you see, encounter or are stalked by wildlife while hiking in Washington State

Lefty Graves
Hikers in a forest in WashingtonPhoto byKatie MusialonUnsplash

Washington State is home to a wide variety of hiking areas. From the Western side of the state on the peninsula to the Eastern side of the state and the Colville National Forest, there are many great options for hiking. The general rule that most hikers follow is to take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.

Washington State is also home to a variety of wildlife

This wildlife includes such animals as deer, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, gray wolves, cougars, beavers, river otters, and a variety of bird species. You may also encounter marmots, mountain goats, elk, and lynx, depending on where you’re hiking.

For the most part, hikers have very few issues with wildlife. However, occasionally hikers will encounter wildlife while they’re out hiking. This, in and of itself, is usually harmless as long as hikers remain a safe distance away from wildlife and maintain their composure. However, occasionally, an animal like a cougar or even a bear may stalk hikers. In the case noted here, the little girl did everything right to protect herself.

What should hikers do if they encounter wildlife?

So, what should hikers do when they encounter wildlife? If you suspect or feel (or see) wildlife stalking you, above all, remain calm. The first thing that a hiker should attempt to do is to distance themselves from the wildlife. It’s important to never make eye contact with the wildlife; this may be perceived as challenging.

Instead, hikers are reminded to quietly make themselves known and keep an eye on the animals while slowly backing away. Never run, this could be ‘game-on’ for a wild animal used to stalking its prey, and it isn’t likely to end well for you.

Speak in a low and calm voice while avoiding eye contact. As soon as you can create a safe distance, cautiously and quickly but safely make your way to either a shelter, your vehicle, or a populated area.

Other important tips

Never feed the wildlife. Even though they beg, they shouldn’t be fed human food. The more wild animals interact with humans, the less fear they have. This is dangerous to both humans and animals.

Avoid taunting or teasing wildlife as well. You’re in their territory, so it’s important to remember that they call the area you’re in home. Pick up all your trash, pack it in, pack it out.

It’s important to remember that wildlife attacks are very rare; however, if you are attacked, seek medical attention immediately, and make sure to report the incident to the local Fish and Game Department in Washington State.

© Lefty Graves. 2023 All Rights Reserved.

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She writes about all things Washington. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington State.

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