600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

This document is provided for archival purposes only.
Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.
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July 02, 1998
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408 or Madonna Luers, (509) 456-4073

Share the outdoors safely with wildlife

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds campers and hikers that they can take a few simple precautions this holiday weekend to peacefully co-exist with wildlife.

Black bear, cougar and human populations all are growing rapidly in Washington state. Along with the population growth, more people are taking to the woods in their free time. Those trends can mean potential trouble, especially for unwary summertime hikers and campers.

"Bears are out actively feeding on salmonberries this time of year and are tearing apart logs looking for insects," said WDFW carnivore expert Steve Pozzanghera. "Also, as their cubs are growing bigger and stronger, females are able to roam further afield with their young."

People sharing the outdoors with wildlife should never try to approach wild animals, and should be particularly cautious if they happen to encounter an animal with offspring. Young animals which appear to be "orphaned" should be left alone.

Feeding wildlife also is dangerous for both people and animals. Careful handling of food and garbage will discourage animals from getting too close or becoming too comfortable around people. Car campers should double-wrap their food and store it inside their cars, never inside tents. Backcountry campers should use wildlife-resistant food lockers when possible, or should double-wrap and hang food from tree limbs.

In most cases, animals will go out of their way to avoid humans. People can do their part by making noise to alert an animal to their presence and giving the animal room to leave the area.

If an encounter threatens to turn into something more serious, here is the advice of WDFW experts:

  • Don't run running mimics the behavior of prey animals and can prompt an attack. If small children are present, pick them up.
  • Make yourself look larger by raising your arms or standing on a rock or stump.
  • Keep eye contact with cougars to establish dominance. Avoid eye contact with bears because they view a stare as confrontation.
  • If the animal appears ready to attack fight back with rocks or stout sticks.
  • Try to remain on your feet.
For more details on co-existing with bears and cougars pick up copies of "Living With Wildlife in Washington" brochures from WDFW offices statewide. The information also is available at wdfw.wa.gov on the department's website.