SPOKANE, Wash. – Let’s be honest. Most of us hope to see an animal while hiking so we have a good story to share with our friends when we return. As for anything more than that, well let’s avoid that at all costs!
While encounters are rare in the Inland Northwest, they can happen. Staci Lehman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the best way to stop up close and personal encounters from happening is to be prepared. Lehman recommended hiking in groups, talking, singing or stomping on sticks and leaves extra hard to make your presence known!
Officials recommend bringing bear spray and keeping it accessible. That means attached to your belt buckle where you can easily grab it should you need to use it. You might not have enough time to dig through your backpack if a bear is charging at you.
Lehman said that spray can be more effective at times than a firearm because using it requires less steps and you don’t need great aim. She said using bear spray takes a few steps: you must remove the safety tab at the top, hold the can with two hands (one on the can, the other on the trigger) and when the bear is within 10 yards of you, press the trigger with your thumb and spray the entire contents on the bears face. Know that bear spray can be effective while encountering other animals too, like a moose or cougar.