Hiking With Critters, Large and Small: What You Need to Know
Wildlife encounters on trail can be a source of awe or … itching. Here are a few of the wild creatures people routinely ask us about and tips on how to make potential encounters as positive as possible.
Wildlife encounters on trail can be a source of awe or … itching. Here are a few of the wild creatures people routinely ask us about and tips on how to make potential encounters as positive as possible. As we start venturing out more, and as the weather warms, it's more likely we'll encounter some of these critters.
Ticks: As potential disease vectors, ticks might be the wild critters you most want to avoid. Covering up your skin and checking yourself vigilantly after a hike will keep these bloodthirsty encounters to a minimum.
Mosquitoes and black flies: These prove that the smallest critters might be the most pesky. We have some advice for keeping your bug bites to a bare minimum.
Birds: Aah, the encounter that you don’t even need your eyes to enjoy. Our advice is to get to know a few calls and look for places where birds like to gather (like wetlands) to get maximum enjoyment. Just don’t feed them — ever. (It’s bad for them.)
Chipmunks, field mice and ground squirrels: These woodland creatures can be fun to watch. But stay sharp if you’re picnicking or camping; they pose the biggest danger to your food stash if you haven’t secured it properly.
Snakes: Snakes get a bad rap. Most snakes you spot on trail are not a danger to you, and rattlesnakes give you plenty of warning if you get too close. In Central Washington, just watch where you put your feet.
Goats: Gravity-defying and majestic, these mountain-goers deserve our respect and a wide berth. When you encounter goats in the alpine, yield the trail to them and try to keep 50 feet of space between you.
Wolves: You’re more likely to hear a wolf than see one. Wolves pose almost no danger to humans, and as long as you keep your dogs close and on leash, any rare encounter is likely to just be a special memory.
Cougars: In the unlikely event you encounter a cougar, stay where you are, face it and make yourself look imposing by waving trekking poles or branches.
Black bears: With their fuzzy faces, bears are a delight to spot — ideally at a respectful distance. Talk to them to let them know you are human, and give them a wide berth or back away slowly. When camping, secure your food to keep their noses out of your noms.
Moose: Most likely to be spotted in the eastern half of the state and knee-deep in a pond, moose are larger than you think. Don’t make the mistake of treating them like large deer; moose can be dangerous if you get too close.