America Camping Xplorers

Wild Animal Encounters

These suggestions are among the lessons learned by people who have encountered wild animals. There is no guarantee that these suggestions will work every time, but they are based on the best current information. The best plan of actions is for you to avoid wild animals.

animal collage

Mountain Lion Encounters

Mountain lion

cougar, puma, mountain lion

Mountain lions (also called cougars or panthers) tend to avoid people. Mountain lion can measure up to 8 feet from their nose to the tip of their ropy tails. Mountain lions may be present and are unpredictable. Be cautious. They have been known to attack without warning.  You are advised to stay alert for potential danger


What to do if you encounter a mountain lion

  • Two or more adult are safer that a lone adult
  • Take the encounter seriously
  • Stay well back
  • Do all you can to appear larger
  • Never let kids run ahead of you or fall behind on the trail.
  • Pick up your children
  • Keep pets leached and in control
  • Do not play dead
  • Stand close to each other
  • Do not run away
  • Make noise
  • Do not turn your back to the mountain lion
  • Back away slowly
  • Do not crouch down
  • Act like a predator yourself
  • Hold your ground
  • Protect yourself
  • Report any sighting to a ranger
black panther running


Bear Encounters

bear collage

The Black (sometimes called a grizzly) and the Brown bear are the two main types of bears you can encounter in the Continental United States. Be careful not to confuse the brown bear with his cousin the black bear, you can identify a Black Bear by its humped shoulders, white-tipped back hair and extra-long claws. Bears are normally shy of humans and generally will move away before we are even aware of their presence. Most bear encounters and attacks can be avoided, but there will be times when wind or other background noises may result in encounters between bears and people

What to do if you encounter a Bear

  • Don’t Run
  • Slowly leave the area
  • Identify yourself if the bear spot you
  • Stay calm
  • Give the bear space
  • Hike and travel in groups
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible
  • Do NOT drop your pack or anything to distract the bear
  • Watch for aggressive behaviors
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs
  • Keep pets on leash
  • If you have pepper spray, prepare to use it
  • Report any sighting to a ranger


snake collage

Snake Facts:
– There are over 2700 different Breeds of Snakes in the world.
– Less than one-third of the 2,700 species of snakes are classified as poisonous and fewer than 300 species of snakes may be
   fatal  to humans. In fact, more than twice as many people in the United States are killed annually by bees, wasps, and 
   scorpions than by snakes.
– Snakes are one of the most persecuted animals in the world.
– In the United States, there are over 25 different species of Rattlesnakes.
– Snakes are one of the only animals in the United States that helps control the US rodent population.

Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.

Rattlesnakes usually avoid humans, but about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, with 10 to 15 deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The most common venomous snake in Idaho is the Western Rattlesnake. Other nonvenomous snakes of Idaho include the Rubber Boa, Racer, Ringneck Snake, Night Snake, Striped Whipsnake, Common Garter Snake, Gopher Snake, Ground Snake, and Longnose Snake.

Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors. About 25 percent of the bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected, but the bites still require medical treatment. Depending on weather and threatening conditions such wildfires; rattlesnakes may roam at any time of the day or night. If walking at night, be sure to use a flashlight.

To avoid rattlesnake bites these safety precautions may help:
• Wear appropriate over-the-ankle hiking boots, thick socks, and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals
   when walking through wild areas.
• When hiking, stick to well-used trails if all possible.
• Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
• Look at your feet to watch where you step and do not put your foot in or near a crevice where you cannot see.
• Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. · If a fallen tree or large rock is in
  your path, step up on to it instead of over it, as there might be a snake on the other side.
• Be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
• Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
• Do not turn over rocks or logs. If you must move a rock or log, use gloves and roll it toward you, giving anything beneath it the
   opportunity to escape in the opposite direction.
• Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
• Avoid approaching any snake you cannot positively identify as a safe species.
• If you hear the warning rattle, move away from the area and do not make sudden or threatening movements in the direction of
   the snake.
• Remember rattlesnakes do not always rattle before they strike!
• Do not handle a freshly killed snake – it can still inject venom.

Venomous snakes in North America
About 25 species of venomous snakes are found in North America, all but the coral snake have slit-like eyes and are known as pit vipers. Their heads are triangular, with a depression (pit) midway between the eye and nostril on either side of the head.
Rattlesnakes rattle by shaking the rings at the end of their tails.
Water moccasins’ mouths have a white, cottony lining.
Coral snakes have red, yellow and black rings along the length of their bodies.

Snake Bite Symptoms

  • Bloody wound discharge
  • Fang marks or swelling at wound
  • Extreme localized pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Burning sensation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weakness of body
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting

If bitten by a rattlesnake DO NOT:

  • Do not make incisions over the bite wound.
  • Do not restrict blood flow by applying a tourniquet.
  • Do not ice the wound.
  • Do not suck the poison out with your mouth.
  • Do not use modern over-the-counter snakebite kits which consist of a suction device for drawing out venom from the bite wound.
  • Do not slice across the fang marks and try to suck out the venom with your mouth. The poison can enter your bloodstream through cuts or sores in your mouth and might be swallowed.
  • Don’t try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
  • These methods can very well cause additional harm and most amputations or other serious results of a rattlesnake bite are a result of icing or applying a tourniquet.

Do’s for snake bites

  • Do Stay calm and move beyond the snake’s striking distance.
  • Do wash the bite area gently with soap and water if available
  • Do Remove watches, rings, etc., which may constrict swelling
  • Do Immobilize the affected area
  • Do keep the bite below the heart if possible
  • Do call the park ranger or 911
  • Do transport safely to the nearest medical facility immediately.

Venomous Snakes of North America
Click for Venomous

Snake Bites
Click for Bites

Snake Bite First Aid and Treatment
Click for Treatment

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