Visiting wilderness areas and national parks can be one of the most rewarding travel experiences, filled with expansive scenery and majestic wildlife. However, before you rush to pet that cute deer in the meadow or feed that furry bear in the forest, follow the tips below to ensure a safe and memorable trip.
- First and foremost, the national parks and wilderness areas are home to many species of wild animals. Never approach, tease or feed a wild animal, no matter how tame it looks. Even sweet-looking deer, for instance, have razor-like hooves that can cause injury. To ensure your safety, always maintain a respectable distance.
- Don’t feed animals, and never leave food unattended, especially in your car. This is an animal’s invitation to dinner, and a car or van trunk is no match for a curious bear who smells a meal. When away from your vehicle, make sure that windows are closed all the way, and that doors are securely locked. Remove any candy or other food wrappers so they are not visible.
- If you see a female animal, look around for any signs of offspring. Always avoid surprising or getting between an adult mother and her young. Animals are especially protective of their young and may attack if they are startled or feel threatened. When walking or hiking, try to talk or make noise to warn animals of your presence. While tying bells to your shoes may help somewhat in some national parks, hikers are encouraged sing, shout, or clap their hands to alert animals to their presence.
- Keep children close at hand, and don’t let young children wander by themselves.
- Most wild animals will leave you alone unless they feel provoked. In the rare case you feel threatened, never try to outrun an animal. Back away slowly, make noise, use an emergency whistle, raise your arms to make yourself look bigger.
- Try to walk or hike with a companion. If you’re going alone, let others know where you’re going.
- Walk—don’t run – on trails. Although it might be great exercise, jogging or other sudden motion may startle wildlife.
- Avoid hiking in the early morning or after dark, when wild animals are most active.
- Wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes, and avoid sandals, to protect your feet and ankles.
- In areas where venomous snakes may be encountered, step ON rocks and logs, not over them.
- Stay on established paths and trails and avoid unmarked shortcuts.
- When driving, adhere to posted speed limits. Every year hundreds of animals in the U.S. and Canadian National Parks are killed by speeding motorists. A vehicular encounter with a wild animal may not only kill thethe animal, but seriously damage your car.
- Lastly, whether hiking or driving, it’s always wise to carry extra water, food such as protein bars, and warm clothing in case of emergency.
The US National Parks Service offers safety information for each specific park in its system. For more information, visit www.nps.gov.
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