How to Manage And Avoid Animal Encounters While Running

When you go running, you expect to build up a sweat and see great views. What you might not assume to happen is to run into an animal, such as bear, moose, deer, or a snake.

In fact, whether you’re an urban athlete or a trail junkie, you’re like to come across different creatures of the animal kingdom sooner or later. These unforeseen run-ins with wildlife during a run can be unnerving.

The truth is, more than often, wildlife encounters while running are going to be harmless. In fact, animal attacks while running are pretty rare.

But, to err on the side of caution, you should learn in advance what do when you encounter an animal during a run (both for your safety and the animal’s safety). Expect the best but prepare for the worst—as the saying goes.

Would you like to learn how? Then you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s post, I’ll share with you a few tips on how to prevent and handle unwanted animal encounters during a run.

Sounds great?

Let’s lace up and dig in.

Dogs

Run long enough, and you’ll eventually come across a dog. Canine encounters are, after all, one of the most common all animal encounters.

Usually, behind a fence or on a leash, dogs pose little to no threat, yet all too often, that’s not the case.

Dogs can get territorial, defending their turf, and acting aggressively. And you never know how the dog was treated by other people.

That’s when untrained, aggressive and unsupervised, a dog attack can cause some serious damage. (Check this story)

Warning signs:

  • Charging through doors
  • Hindering your path
  • Stopping eating on the approach
  • Getting very still and ridge
  • Barking and showing teeth
  • Lunging forward

How To Approach Them

  • Avoid eye contact, or else you’re asking them to lunge at you.
  • Stay calm. A dog will pick up on your fear.
  • Stop running and stand tall. Avoid many any jumpy movements that can trigger the canine chase instinct
  • Avoid sticking out an open hand or jumping up and down excitedly.
  • Stand sideways while keeping the dog in your side vision.

Wolf

The image of coming face to face with a pack of hungry, wild, wolves may send shivers down your spine, but attacks on humans are not the norm. In fact, they’re so rare as this animal is super timid and would rather avoid people at all times.

Behaviorally, wolves tend to be pack hunters that cover huge areas of uninhabited land. That’s the reason why if you spot one in the wild, chances they’re not alone.

What’s more?

Wolves are coursing predators, they love the chase and will pursue prey on the run.

Warning signs:

  • Bristling the pelt, as if looking bigger and more threatening
  • Erect Ears
  • Crouching backward
  • Making a barren, irritated expression
  • Curling back the lips to show the fangs and gums

How To Approach

  • Make a lot of noise. Shout at the wolves as loud as possible.
  • Toss branches and rocks at the animal but without looking vulnerable.
  • Raise your jacket or shirt over your head to appear bigger and more threatening.
  • opt for strong, confident, body posture
  • Back away slowly if you see a wolf before it sees you.
  • Avoid eye contact, but don’t look scrawny. A wolf considers eye contact a challenge.
  • Do not run. You’re not fast enough.
  • When attacked, keep the wolf away from vulnerable spots such as your neck and head. Then attack their nose and eyes. Go for their head if you’re lucky enough.

Mountain Lions

Also known as panthers or cougars and weighing between 120 to 180 pounds, mountain lions are infamously stealthy, and at times lethal predators.

Typically, mountain lions prey on mammals, such as deer, racoons, and beaver. But occasionally, they develop a taste for humans.

About 10000 mountain lions are believed to dwell in the Western U.S. alone. You’re likely to run into one either in the late spring or early summer. During this period, young mountain lions gain independence from their mothers and drift widely seeking untaken territory.

Warning Signs

  • Crouching
  • Stalking, while trying to stay under the radar the entire time.
  • Creeping, and moving silently toward the prey.
  • On the fence, a mountain lion often goes for the neck and shoulders.

How to Approach

  • Always give the animal enough space to escape
  • Stand tall and make loud noises, raising your arms slowly and open your jacket. Try banging rocks together.
  • Pick up a branch and wave it around, or toss it at the animal to show that you have no fear. Act the part of a predator.
  • Do not run. Again, you’re not the fastest animal here.
  • Do not bend or crouch down to pick up anything nor turn your back.
  • If attacked, fight back and protect your neck and throat. Pepper spray will be so helpful in this case.
  • Again, pray, pray very hard.

Bears

Bears tend to be omnivorous. They prefer to munch on berries rather than human flesh, but that doesn’t make them less threatening.

Most bear attacks are a result of the animal feeling threatened then reacting in a manner that eliminates the threat. Nothing personal. The worst thing you can do to startle them as you come running across the corner.

And God forbid, if you surprise a nursing mother, you’ll get definitely attacked as she tries to defend her cubs if she thinks you’re a threat. That’s why Mother bears are behind 70% of all fatal injuries to humans. Solo males on the hunt are dangerous, too.

Warning Signs

  • Bear seeming hostile, as in, standing tall, groaning, etc.
  • Swatting the ground or nearby vegetation with the front paw
  • Lunging or feign-charging toward you
  • Ears getting flat against the head

How To Approach

  • Pay attention so you can spot a bear scrabbling around int the bushes before it sees you.
  • Be loud. Shout at the bear. Hopefully, it understands that you’re human, not prey.
  • Get the hell out of there if you spot any cubs. It’s not time to take pictures.
  • Avoid climbing trees. Most bears are better climbers than you.
  • Throw things at the bear, displaying confidence.
  • Keep bear spray on you so you can use it quickly if an aggressive bear is 30 to 40 feet away.
  • When attacked, drop on the ground and play dead. Protect your face with your forearms and the back of your neck with your hands.
  • Pray, and pray hard.

Deer

Deer are timid by nature and make off the moment they spot a human. They’re also rarely aggressive and one of the most common animals encounters for runners.

But a deer that feels threatened is another story, and a deer attack can cause some serious damage.

Avoid provoking this animal, especially during the fall—the mating season during which they’re most aggressive.

Warning Signs

  • Deer approaching you while making loud noises
  • Changing  the stance and ear posture
  • Stomping the feet while huffing

How To Approach

  • Avoid getting close to one, especially foot. You don’t want to be kicked and fly.
  • Pay attention to your running route to avoid a collision.
  • Have situational awareness.
  • When attacked, climb a tree or hide behind a rock.

Snakes

Snakes are another animal that poses little to no threat as the majority tend to fall within the harmful variety. In fact, only a small minority of snakes are poisonous, so you shouldn’t treat them all as if they are.

For example, there are only 20 species of venomous snakes in the U.S.—the most dangerous one is the infamous rattlesnake.

If you encounter a snake with a triangular-shaped head—as opposed to a round one—your life might be in danger. That’s a telltale sign of a poisonous serpent.

Snakes, just like most other animals, are only a danger when harassed or feel threatened. Otherwise, they want nothing to do with you.

What’s more?

Most snakes are nocturnal creatures, spending most of the day sleeping or sunning themselves, and are most active throughout spring and early fall.

The Warning Signs

  • Hissing
  • trying to escape
  • feign striking
  • Assuming an S position.
  • Withdrawal of the head or tail
  • Hiding the head
  • Watching you and stalking your movement.

How To Approach

  • Pay attention to where you’re placing your feet and hands, especially when running over a log or climbing over boulders.
  • If you see a snake on a trail or road, back away slowly and a large distance from the snake. Stop and sprint in the other direction if you have to. If you confident enough to jump far, then take a big leap.
  • Do not goad the snake in any way. Again, this is not the time for selfies.
  • When attacked, stay calm and head to the emergency room ASAP. Call 911 if suspect a poisonous attack. Keep in mind that sucking out the venom only works in the movies. Sucking venom makes it spread quicker into your system. Lethal!

Moose

This may surprise you, but moose are likely the most dangerous of all farmyard animals. They’re huge, have a bad temper, so for your own safety, stay away from them.

Again, moose want nothing to do with you unless they feel endangered. Bulls—the male moose—is super territorial, and females may see you as a threat to their calf.

Moose pose the most danger during the spring—the calving season—and fall—the rutting season.

Warning Signs

  • Broadside display in an attempt to show off size.
  • Animal moving its ears, smacking the lips, and raising the hair on their hump.
  • Yes, a pissing contest.
  • Pawing the ground with the forefoot.
  • Licking the lip

How to approach

  • Keep your distance from moose.
  • If it charges, sprint away. They often drop the chase after a few strides.
  • When attacked, climb a tree or head for the fence. It’s not the time to test your superpowers (not yet).

Conclusion

Exploring the unknown while logging the miles is one of the greatest pleasures of being a runner.

All in all, keeping your eyes open is your best defense against an unwanted encounter with an animal during a run. If you see one before it sees you, you’ll have enough time to scurry away and avoid an unpleasant experience.

Any experience running into wildlife? Feel free to share along with your tips and tricks!

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Stay safe out there.

Keep Running Strong.

David D.

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