Here in the Pacific Northwest we have had numerous recent reports of predatory animal sightings, from bears to mountain lions.
The season started us off with local pro and Norco athlete Bryn Atkinson getting stalked out of our area trail system by a cougar:
Things only escalated from there, when three water skiers encountered what may have been the same cougar out for a dip in the lake that sits below those same bike trails:
Now that Whistler bike park is open we have been heading up there to ride. It is commonplace to see a black bear hanging out under the chair lift, or even in the middle of a trail. While it seems that both people and animals have become desensitized to these encounters, the reality is that these animals can be extremely dangerous.
When we venture into the outdoors, we are entering into the realm of the beasts, and it behooves us to be aware. In the case of this mountain biker and equally surprised black bear, there can sometimes be no warning as to when these encounters can happen. It is fairly easy to be prepared to deal with circumstances that we eventually WILL encounter if we spend enough time outside, which is what we are here to discuss.
If you come across a large, predatory animal when you are out there playing in the woods, here are the steps to take:
Make yourself appear as big and as menacing as possible. If you are biking, get off your bike and hold it in front of you, sideways. If you are hiking with your child, put them on your shoulders. In groups, stand next to each other, with the goal being to appear like one big, scary animal.
Here is my friend Toby, who, while on a recent solo ski trip in the Cascades came across a not-so-friendly looking bear. Using his arts and crafts skills, he created this wonderfully scary (to a bear... maybe) costume. He wandered out to the trailhead some time later, much to the surprise of the two hikers who came across him and snapped this photo.
Get loud. Hoot, holler, buzz your Industry Nine hub, or whack your hiking poles together. The louder and more intimidating, the better. You want to seem like a predator yourself, though, so no shrieking in terror!
Confidence is key, they say, and the same holds true here. Become the predator yourself. This doesn’t mean that you should be attacking the bear before it attacks you, but it does mean that you maintain eye contact and face forward. Don’t crouch down or behave submissively. Speak slowly, loudly, and firmly to establish your dominance. Just think back to what your career counselor told you to do in your first interview!
Slowly back away. Don’t be like this guy and spring away from the bear, even if the bear is computer animated, like this one is. They still bite. Note: make sure you don’t back away to a spot that is in between a mother and her cubs.
If an animal attacks you, do fight back. You are bigger and smarter than they are (presumably) and many a hiker has turned away a cougar using things like rocks, branches, even the odd fanny pack. Or maybe you are like this alligator whisperer, and can just conjure vicious animals out of the deep blue.
If you need a fanny pack to carry your tranquilizer dart gun in, or maybe just a snack and a spare tube, check out Dakine's fanny packs, like this Hot Laps pack.
If bear encounters are a frequent occurrence for you, it may be worth your while to carry bear mace. This neat Evoc Hip Pack will fit that, or alternately, a bottle of wine.