Hiking is one of our favorite pet friendly activities, and I know many of you feel the same way. Of course, communing with nature can lead to encounters with wildlife and, while thrilling, it can also be dangerous. Deterring an attack, or surviving one, requires different behavior depending on the animal you encounter. Before you head out, make yourself familiar with the wildlife that lives in the area you are hiking, and follow these tips for encountering predators on the trail.

Woman with a dog in the mountains. Autumn mood. Traveling with a pet. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


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Pet Friendly Hiking Tips

Hiking is our favorite pet friendly activity. We love getting out into nature, and often see wildlife. And with any activity, it’s important to take precautions to keep you and pet safe.

  • Avoid surprising animals by making noise and staying aware – especially on sections of trail with limited sight lines.
  • Putting bear bells on your dog’s collar will alert wildlife to your presence and give the animals time to avoid you.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Instead, tune into your surroundings so you can hear approaching animals.
  • Don’t jog on the trails known for animal encounters – running stimulates a predator’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Be sure someone knows where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry a first aid kit and a cell phone.
  • Keep your dog on a leash so that he can’t put himself and you in danger by chasing any animals you encounter. If he does react to an animal, do your best to keep him close and under as much control as possible. Calmly move away from the animal, taking care not to run or allow your dog to run, as it might trigger the animal to chase you.
  • In places where off-leash hiking is allowed, keep pets close to you and within sight at all times.
  • If you are hiking in bear country, keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, so plan your hikes accordingly.
  • Keep an eye out for tracks, fresh scat, digs, other signs that animals are active in the area.
  • Carry bear spray and be sure that you have practiced using it before an attack.
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Man and his dog enjoying the view of Mt. Rainier from pet-friendly Ira Spring Trail near Seattle, WA

Tips For Encountering Predators on the Trail

If You See a Mountain Lion (Cougar)Mountain Lion

  • Calmly face the lion and maintain eye contact.
  • Hold your ground or back away slowly.
  • Stand upright – don’t crouch or bend over. Make yourself look large – raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack above your head.
  • Talk loudly and firmly in a low voice.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, sticks, or your belongings in its direction.

If You Are Attacked by a Mountain Lion

  • Don’t run.
  • Fight back using what ever is available to you – sticks, tools, keys, rocks, or even your bare hands.
  • Protect your head and neck, using your backpack or jacket as a shield.


If You Meet a Coyote

  • CoyoteCoyotes sometimes hunt in small packs, so keep an eye on your surroundings.
  • Calmly and slowly back away and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • Raise your arms or hold a jacket or backpack over your head to make yourself look bigger.
  • Clap your hands and shout in a low voice.

If You Are Attacked by a Coyote

  • Don’t run.
  • Yell loudly, and throw rocks, sticks or your belongings at it.
  • If it moves closer, throw dirt, gravel, or sand in its eyes.

If You Encounter a Bear

  • When you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly, but do not run. Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed.
  • Pick up your dog (if it’s small enough) so he does not run, or keep your larger dog close to you.
  • If the bear sees you, remain still, stand your ground, and avoid sudden movements.
  • You want the bear to know you’re human, so talk calmly in a normal voice and move your arms.
  • The bear might come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better view. Remember, a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression.
  • If the bear is watching you but not moving, slowly move sideways away from the bear. This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.
  • Throw something onto the ground (like a hat or camera) if the bear pursues you. This might distract the bear and allow you to escape.
  • Never feed or throw food to a bear.
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If a Bear Charges You

  • Remember that bears charge as a bluff, running toward you then veering off or stopping abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops, then slowly back away.
  • Never run from a bear! They will chase, and bears can run faster than 30 mph.
  • Don’t run towards or climb a tree. Both black bears and grizzlies can climb trees, and many bears will be provoked to chase you if they see you climbing.

If a Brown or Grizzly Bear Attacks

  • Use bear spray if you have it. Spray when the bear is within 40 feet so it runs into the fog. Aim for the face.
  • Play dead! Lie face down on the ground with your hands around the back of your neck.
  • Stay silent and try not to move.
  • Keep your legs spread apart and if you can, and leave your pack on to protect your back.
  • Fighting back usually increases the intensity of the attack. However, if the bear persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have to hit the bear in the face.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Bears will often watch from a distance and come back if they see movement.

If a Black Bear Attacks

  • Use bear spray if you have it.
  • Fight back! Be aggressive and use any object you have concentrating your blows on the bear’s face and muzzle.


If You Come Across a Moose (Yes, a moose!)Moose

  • Moose are known to dislike dogs, so pick up your dog or keep him close on leash.
  • Talk calmly, and back away giving the moose plenty of space.
  • Moose often will not move out of the trail so you may need to detour off trail to get around.
  • Watch for signs the moose might attack, like ears back, hair raised on hump (or “hackles”), grunting, or stomping feet.
  • Moose charge as a bluff, running toward you then veering off or stopping abruptly. Stand your ground until the moose stops, then slowly back away.

If a Moose Attacks

  • Back off and run. Get behind a tree or rock – anything to separate you from the moose.
  • Curl up with your hands on head and neck using your backpack as a shield.
  • Stay still until the moose is a good distance away. If you try to get up while it’s close, it could attack again.

Anytime you see an aggressive animal you should report the incident to a ranger, the parks and recreation department of the area, animal control, your local wildlife center, or a similar organization.

Are there any tips for encountering predators on the trail that you’d like to add?

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  • If you are hiking with a dog does it make you (or your dog) more likely to be attacked by a mountain lion or bear?

    • That’s a great question, Hailey! Dogs are more likely than humans to be seen as prey by these large predators, so I think having a dog along could increase the probability of an attack. That being said, the chances of you or your pet being attacked by a mountain lion or bear are extremely small. And taking precautions – like keeping pets leashed, making noise as you hike, and carrying bear spray – reduces the chance of an encounter even more. I hope that helps! Safe travels.

  • Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Camping, Hiking