Seeing wildlife while on the trails in the Gem State is not uncommon and Idaho Fish and Game is giving tips to safely enjoy and share the trails. While most wildlife encounters are welcomed, surprise encounters can put both people, their pets and wildlife in a potential conflict situation.
IDFG says mountain lions, bears, elk, deer and moose can be found in many locations throughout Idaho, sometimes in towns and neighborhoods. Deer and elk have become year-round residents and many communities and mountain lions are seen on area trails and occasionally in neighborhoods.
The key to safely watching and recreating around wildlife is being aware. Depending on the situation or wildlife, making sure the animal is aware of your presence is important. This is especially true in spring when many species have babies with them. Wildlife are very protective of their young and giving them a wide berth is always a good practice, regardless of the season or situation, according to IDFG.
IDFG also advises that you make sure that wildlife knows you are in their habitat. Calling out is often enough to give any wildlife in the area a sense that you are coming down the trail, which might help prevent an unexpected encounter.
Fish and Game will always prioritize public safety when wildlife is near people. It recommends using these safety tips when recreating or living near wildlife:
- Never allow wildlife, especially bears, to get access to human food or garbage. A food-conditioned bear is a public safety hazard, and in some cases will be trapped and euthanized.
- Always keep your pets on a leash. Even the best-trained dog when in a stressful wildlife situation may not respond to commands, which puts the dog and its owner, and the wildlife in a dangerous situation.
- Always be aware of your surroundings, and use all your senses to keep yourself safe.
- Carry and know how to use bear spray. Keep it readily accessible, which means in a chest harness or belt carrier. Bear spray may also be an effective deterrent to other species such as mountain lions.
- If someone encounters a mountain lion or bear, no matter the location, remember these safety actions:
- NEVER run. Running can easily trigger their natural tendency to chase and catch something that might be considered prey.
- Do not turn your back on the animal.
- Make yourself look as big as possible.
- Make loud noises (i.e. yelling) to make them realize you are not prey.
- If it can be done safely, pick up rocks or sticks to throw at the animal.
- Pick up small children.
- If attacked, fight back!
For more information about human-wildlife safety tips, contact your local Fish and Game office.