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(KTXL) — With California’s population increasingly moving into and visiting wildlife areas, people and wild animals are finding themselves sharing some of the same spaces, making it crucial to know how to stay safe when wildlife encounters occur.

A common wildlife encounter is with bears, since these animals are more comfortable with entering human-occupied zones, often in search of easy access to food, such as campsites or mountain communities.

Most bears want to be left alone and usually do not attack humans. The National Park Service states that bears may act defensively “by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back.”

According to the National Park Service, it is important to identify yourself and talk calmly to the bear so it knows that you are a human and not prey. It is also important to stay calm and still while slowly waving your arms. This will help the bear recognize you as a human.

The NPS says that small children should be picked up immediately when you encounter a bear, and it is important to not run or make sudden movements because the bear might mistake you for prey.

Any screams or sudden movements can trigger the bear to attack, the NPS warns people to never imitate a bear sound or make any high pitched noises.

The NPS advises that if the bear is stationary, move sideways since that is non-threatening to bears. Running away can cause the bear to follow.

Traveling and hiking in groups tends to be safe because groups are noisier and smellier than a single person allowing bears to become aware of the groups from far away. Groups can also intimidate bears since they are bigger in size.

Brown bear. (Getty Images)

According to the National Park Service, bear attacks are rare and they are usually only interested in protecting their cubs or food. However, if attacked by a bear there are different reactions based on the type of bear encountered. 

Even though there are no grizzly bears in California, if you encounter a brown bear or grizzly bear, the best thing to do is leave your pack on and play dead by laying on your stomach with your hands behind your neck. The National Park Service said to spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to flip you and remain perfectly still until the bear leaves.

Fighting back against a brown bear or grizzly bear will increase the intensity of the attack. However, if the bear will not leave you alone, fight back and use whatever you have to hit the bear in the face. 

Black bear. (Getty Images)

If you are attacked by a black bear, do not play dead, the NPS advises. Instead, try to escape or find shelter in a car or building. If you can not escape the bear, fight back and concentrate all blows to the bear’s face and muzzle.

If any bear, no matter the breed, attacks you in your tent or stalks you in the woods, you should not play dead and you should fight back, says the NPS. These attacks tend to be rare, but they are more serious because the bear deems you as prey.

The biggest advice when encountering a bear is to leave the area or take a detour if possible. If this is not possible, wait until the bear moves using the advice above and leave the bear an escape route.

Mountain lions

While mountain lion attacks are rare, they can happen in the wild. According to the National Park Service, mountain lions are calm, quiet and elusive.

Protect yourself from mountain lions by not hiking alone and keeping all children close to you.

Mountain lion, courtesy Getty Images

If you do encounter a mountain lion, it is important to stay calm, hold your ground, and back away slowly, says the NPS. It is important to not approach the mountain lion.

Do not run from any mountain lion that you encounter. According to the National Park Service, “Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal.”

Do not crouch or bend over because the mountain lion may see you as a four-legged animal that they deem to be prey.

Do all that you can do to appear intimidating to the mountain lion, such as raising your arms and opening your jacket to seem bigger. Just like with a bear, move your arms slowly and talk to the mountain lion so it senses you as human. 

If the mountain lion attacks, fight back by throwing whatever you can at its body. Mountain lions typically try to bite the head or neck so remain standing and face the animal. Try to use any backpacks as body armor between you and the mountain lion.


As for snakes, they are usually shy and like to be left alone. If you leave snakes that you encounter alone, they will most likely leave you alone as well.

If a snake enters your home, get everyone out of the room, including pets, and shut the door, filling the gaps underneath with a towel, says the NPS. Afterward, call a professional snake catcher to have them come relocate the snake.

Rattlesnake. (Getty Images)

When hiking, make noise when you walk to notify the snakes that are nearby that you are there.

The NPS warns to never try to catch a snake yourself, since this is how most people end up getting bitten. All snakes, even babies, are incredibly dangerous. If you do get bitten by a snake, sit quietly and call an ambulance.

If you have a first aid kit, wrap a compression bandage around the bitten limb. Also, remember what the snake looked like to tell the paramedics when they arrive.