• If approached: Do no run, avoid eye contact, stand your ground
  • If attacked: Play dead, lie on stomach or curl into a ball
  • Prevention: Bring pepper spray, make sure your camp is clean
  • Where can they be found:
    Brown Bears – In North America, grizzly bears previously ranged from Alaska down to Mexico and as far east as the western shores of Hudson Bay; the species is now found in Alaska, south through much of western Canada, and into portions of the northwestern United States (including Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming), extending as far south as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.Black Bears – The current range of black bears in the United States is constant throughout most of the Northeast, and within the Appalachian Mountains almost continuously from Maine to north Georgia, the northern Midwest, the Rocky Mountain region, the West Coast and Alaska. However, it becomes increasingly fragmented or absent in other regions

grizzly brown bear north american animal safety tips



  • If you see one: Stay back, usually shy creatures they will attack if they feel threatened
  • If you hear one: Listen up! This is the rattlesnake warning sign, keep on the look out. Note that baby rattlesnakes may not make a sound
  • Prevention: Wear appropriate shoes, keep on the look out and stick to open areas
  • Where can they be found: Rattlesnakes can be found in nearly all 50 U.S. states. They are most abundant in the desert sands of the Southwest, but they also like grasslands, scrub brush and rocky hills. They can be found in the swamplands of the Southeastern United States and in the meadows of the Northeast. These snakes can handle high elevation and are found everywhere from sea level to 11,000 feet, according to the San Diego Zoo.

rattlesnake north american animal safety tips



  • If approached: Act aggressive, noisy and throw things if necessary, do not turn away, make eye contact
  • If attacked: Fight back! protect your neck and head
  • Prevention: Be aware of your surroundings. Never feed a coyote
  • Where can they be found: The ubiquitous coyote is found throughout North America from eastern Alaska to New England and south through Mexico to Panama.

coyote north american animal safety tips


Rabid Raccoon

  • How to Identify: Matted hair, acting erratically, foaming at mouth
  • If Seen: Avoid the animal, walk in the opposite direction
  • If bitten: Wash the area and get medical attention quickly
  • Prevention: Keep garbage can sealed and do not feed them
  • Where can they be found: They can be found throughout North America. Once thought to be more coastal animals, they have been expanding through out the U.S. only within the last 100 years.

rabid raccoon north american animal safety tips


Crocodile & Alligators

  • If attacked: Hit them in the eyes and nose, roll in the same direction as it
  • If Seen: Stay calm, avoid sudden movement and keep your distance
  • Prevention: Avoid inlets, backwaters and other areas known to inhabit crocodiles or alligators. Do not corner them, feed them or come into contact with a nest.
  • Where can they be found: Crocodiles can only be found in the southern tip of Florida but have been seen farther north towards Tampa. Alligators however can be found in many southern coastal states from Texas to the Carolinas.

crocodile american animal safety tips



  • If seen: Avoid it, they will sting you
  • If stung: Stay calm, get medical attention
  • Prevention: Shake out clothing and shoes before putting them on. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants. If prone to allergic reaction to stings consider carrying anti-histamine or epinephrine
  • Where can they be found: Typically found in South western American states

scorpion american animal safety tips



  • If seen: They dont like confrontation, back away slowly
  • If approached: Make yourself seem large and threatening, throw things if necessary
  • If attacked: Literally fight for your life
  • Prevention: Hike in groups, carry a walking stick
  • Where can they be found: The cougar population has been in serious decline since the 1900s. They are now mostly seen in western U.S. states from California to Washington and only rarely spotted elsewhere. There has been recent sitings in Tennessee, Illinois, Connecticut and Wisconsin. 

cougar american animal safety tips



  • If seen: Get out of its path
  • If stung: If not on land, get to shore. Neutralize the sting with vinegar or salt water, not fresh water and please don’t pee on it!
  • Prevention: Lotion like SPF, keep an eye out for them they can be hard to see
  • Where can they be found: Any open ocean, inlet and washed up on beaches

jellyfish american animal safety tips



  • If seen: Walk away slowly without making eye contact
  • If approached: Make yourself look bigger, do not show teeth!
  • If attacked: Fight back, protect neck and head, improvise weapon
  • Prevention: Keep a clean camp, consider leaving your pet at home
  • Where can they be found: The species’ modern range in North America is mostly confined to Alaska and Canada, with populations also occurring in Northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and small portions of Washington, Idaho and northern Oregon and Montana. A functional wolf population should exist in California by 2024 according to estimates by state wildlife officials.

Wolf american animal safety tips



  • If seen: Leave the water and find land
  • If approached: Play dead or float, do not make sudden motions
  • If attacked: Fight back, aim for head, eyes in particular
  • Prevention: Avoid bright or shiny clothing. Do not swim when bleeding
  • Where can they be found: Sharks can be found in most American coastal waters although attacks are rare.

shark american animal safety tips


Resources: The University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory , Live Science , Wikipedia

Originally published by HellaWella and Illustrated by Liam Gooley


Have you encountered any of these animals while hiking with your dog? Tell us about your experience or tips below!