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What should you do if you encounter a wild animal?

If you come across a wild animal while hiking or biking, know how to avoid a conflict or defend yourself.

As the weather gets better, more people will be out on trailheads and mountains trying to enjoy the beauty the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

The other ones enjoying that beauty are animals that also call that beauty home. So what should you do if you’re out and encounter a wild animal?

After a rare cougar attack Saturday near North Bend, there may be some fear about going out and enjoying the mountains. However, that attack that killed one person and injured another is extremely rare and is only the second cougar attack in the state of Washington in nearly a century.

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In this area, black bears as well as coyotes and cougars are some of the more likely animals you will see. Those animals though are likely not paying you any mind and are probably more scared of you than you are of them.

Robert Long, senior conservation scientist and carnivore expert at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, said animal attacks on people are unlikely and the fear of that should not deter you from venturing out.

If you do encounter a wild animal, here’s what Long said you should consider doing:

  • Be a noisy hiker. Bring a bell or music with you and try to hike in groups of two or three or more.
  • If you see an animal coming towards you stop then back away or reroute to give that animal a path to get by you. Do not turn your back to the animal.
  • Make yourself big. Use a bike or your gear to try and spook the animal away from you if it hasn’t left already.
  • Do not run from the animal. That could make you appear more like prey and entice them to chase. It is also dangerous for you if you are running and don’t know where you’re going.
  • Finally, in the rare instance the animal does make contact with you – fight back. Try to startle the animal into going away.

In addition to these tips, Long said the zoo hosts an annual “Bear Affair” event to share wolf information and emphasizes safety in bear country. The event is on Saturday, June 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's free with a zoo admission ticket or membership.