Outdoor Safety & Ethics


Being outdoors means being with wildlife. Many people never encounter a bear, but here ar some safety tips when encountering a bear and preventative safety.

Encountering a Bear:


  • Remain calm.

  • Group together and pick up small children.

  • Continue to face the bear and back away slowly, talking calmly to identify yourself as a human.

  • If the bear continues to approach, try to scare it away by making yourself as large and imposing as possible by stretching your arms overhead and making loud noises.

  • Carry and know how to use bear spray, which is available at many outdoor retailers and can be used to deter a charging bear.

Preventative Bear Safety:

  • Do not feed bears or other wildlife.

  • Read all signs at trailheads.

  • Stay alert, do not wear headphones and cautiously approach any blind corners.

  • Carry bear spray such that it is easily accessible. Know how to use it.

  • Keep a clean camp site.

  • Store food or any scented items including clothing, utensils, and trash with food residues in bear safe containers.

  • Try to stay in a group when possible and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

  • If you see a bear, maintain a safe distance and alter your route to avoid the bear. Never block a bear’s travel route.

  • If you see a cub alone, don't approach. Momma bear could be nearby.

Learn more about being safe in bear country and what bears live in North America at our Bear Aware page.


Snakes live in a wide variety of habitats including forests, swamps, grasslands, deserts and in both fresh and salt water. Before venturing out, familiarize yourself with the snakes in the area where you plan to spend time.

How to avoid snake bites:

  • Leave snakes alone. Do not handle, tease or harass them. 

  • Keep a distance of at least six feet between you and the snake.

  • Stay on trails and watch where you place your hands and feet, especially when climbing or stepping over fences, large rocks and logs or when collecting firewood.

  • Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves.

  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.

  • Wear long pants and proper foot gear, especially at night.

How to treat snake bites:

  • Call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

  • Keep the snake bite victim still, as movement helps the venom spread through the body.

  • Keep the injured body part motionless and just lower than heart level.

  • Keep the victim warm, calm and at rest.

  • Do not allow the person to eat or drink anything.

  • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

Learn more about snakes and snake safety at our Forest Service Snakes page.

Mountain Lions

Your chances of encountering a mountain lion are small, but there are some rules to follow when visiting mountain lion habitat.

Mountain Lion Safety

  • Do not hike alone. Go in groups, with adults supervising children.
  • Avoid dawn and dusk excursions.
  • Keep children close to you. Animals seem especially drawn to children.
  • Pick up small children. The mountain lion will see small children as easier prey. 
  • Do not approach a lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation, so give them a way to escape.
  • Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over. A human standing does not resemble a mountain lion's natural prey.
  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.
  • Fight back if attacked. Mountain lions usually try to bite the head or neck; try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

Learn more about mountain lions and mountain lion safety at our Forest Service Mountain Lion page


Pollinators are responsible for assisting over 80% of the world's flowering plants. Without them, humans and wildlife wouldn't have much to eat or look at! Animals that assist plants in their reproduction as pollinators include species of ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, as well as other unusual animals. Wind and water also play a role in the pollination of many plants.

Learn more about pollinators and what the Forest Service is doing for the conservation and management of pollinators and pollinator habitats on federal lands visit our Pollinators page.