Wildlife Encounters: Expert Advice on How to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Big Outdoors
Hiking and camping with your pet can be a wonderful experiences—unless you find yourself face to face with a wild animal.
While avoiding an area well-known for wild animal encounters might be a good idea, there are also things you can do even if you end up crossing paths with a bear or a coyote.
First and perhaps most important tip? Always be aware of your surroundings. “Don’t talk on your cell phone, but rather scan the area for movement,” says Annalisa Berns, a missing pets detective and Missing Animal Response Technician. “Most animals are more afraid of us than we are of them, and they give us wide passage.”
Be Aware of Prime Times for Wildlife Encounters
The risk of a potentially negative wildlife encounter increases during certain times of the year. “This includes late spring and early summer when most animals have young offspring,” according to Brian Ogle, an anthrozoology instructor and expert in human-wildlife contact at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. “During the fall, male deer can become more dangerous as a result of their increased testosterone and willingness to defend potential mates.”
The best advice for activities in an area known for animal encounters? Be active when they are not, Ogle says. “For example, most predatory species are active at dawn and dusk rather than in the middle of the day,” explains Ogle. “During the times when humans are most present on trails, wildlife is often deeper into the habitat away from humans or even sleeping to avoid the risk of encountering a human.”
Coyotes and Leashes
If you can, stay out of coyote territory. While dusk and dawn are prime activity times for coyotes, they can also be active at other times of the day—meaning the threat is always there. Berns recommends always keeping small dogs on leashes and close to you. “A small dog sniffing a bush in coyote territory is the equivalent of putting out bait for a coyote,” Berns says.
Stay away from retractable leashes too, as Berns points out they can get wrapped around you or your dog, causing you to fall or be injured. “Plus, if you are startled and drop the leash, then the retractable plastic box ‘races’ after your dog, scaring your dog even more and possibly causing them to run off in a blind panic—right into the coyote’s territory without you.”
There’s also safety in numbers. Bringing another person or multiple dogs along will make the group appear larger and may deter coyotes. “Larger dogs are excellent at being a deterrent to coyotes and they can ‘sound the alarm’ with loud barks of any danger,” Berns says.