Wildlife Encounters

Thieving raccoon at Juniper SpringsOur National Forests provide habitat for wild animals, including potentially dangerous animals like bears and venomous snakes. Wild animals can be upset by human presence and can unexpectedly become aggressive. Do not give them a reason or an opportunity to attack. Always keep your distance. Your safety is your responsibility.

Animals that live in this forest are wild, even though they may look or act tame. Wildlife experts recommend keeping at least 100 yards away from bears and 25 yards from other large animals.

The consequences of approaching wildlife can be serious. You are responsible for your own safety as well as the safety of wildlife. Wild animals should be allowed to forage for food, care for their young, sleep and play without human disturbance.

Animals that are approached too closely may:

• Run into traffic and get hit by vehicles
• Lose footing on cliffs and fall
• Be separated from their young or forced to abandon their nests or dens
• Become more vulnerable to predators because they are distracted by people or acquire a human scent
• Abandon an important food source, reducing their chances for survival

Wild animals, especially bears, should never be allowed to obtain human food or garbage. Wild animals that receive these "food rewards" just once may become aggressive toward humans. To protect people and their property, these animals may be destroyed by wildlife managers. Keep human food and garbage away from all wildlife.

  • Animals fed along roads tend to stay near the road, increasing the chances of vehicle-animal accidents.
  • Animals use to human food may eat aluminum foil, plastic, or other wrappings. These can severely damage animals’ digestive systems and may even cause death.
  • Human food may cause tooth decay, ulcers, malformation of horns, arthritis, or other disease in wild animals.
  • Animals may try to eat any item with an odor. Do not leave boxes, wrappers, plastics, or cans of any type where animals can get them. Litter can harm animals!

Approaching or feeding wild animals is never appropriate. Giving food to, or approaching wild animals not only interferes with their natural activity, it is the leading cause of conflicts, which result in serious injury or death to both people and animals.

Many wildland visitors mistakenly believe that there are specific gestures and warning signals wild animals make that will give people time to retreat to safety. Wild animals are individualistic and unpredictable. Animals that ignore you, look calm, or appear friendly may suddenly and without warning charge or strike out.

Human injury often occurs when an animal responds to a perceived threat with instinctive "fight or flight" behavior-people get injured simply because they are in the animal’s way. A car horn, barking dog, or excited children can trigger an animal into fight or flight behavior.

Both the females and males of most wildlife species are equally dangerous.

Although animals may look or act tame, they are wild and may change quickly and unpredictably from passive or "friendly" to aggressive behavior.

If an animal approaches you, it is your responsibility to move away to maintain a safe distance. Your safety is your responsibility!

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