Sunday, January 07, 2007

Other animal encounters

Bears are of course not the only dangerous animals when hiking. I haven't met a cougar while hiking for many years, certainly I would be anxious if a cougar remained in the same area when I was hiking. Moose are another animal that occasionally charge people and cause injuries. I know I treat moose with respect and as much distance as I can manage when hiking but have still come within 20 feet of one accidently. Elk, especially females with calves and rutting bulls are also dangerous, last fall I retreated back down a trail when a bull seemed to regard me as a rival. I was glad I had retreated as I watched him attack a small tree and I decided to find another trail to hike.

Except for the 2 close grizzly encounters mentioned here, bison have caused me the most concern about my safety. Of course I only hike around bison in Yellowstone National Park, I encounter other animals in a variety of Parks and forests. More than once I have walked far too close to a bison laying down and partly hidden by vegetation. Hearing a 'huff' from a bull bison less than 15 feet away does get my attention. One time I found myself in the middle of a herd of moving bison where I could not see anyplace to move away from them. I moved to an area of dead trees, some standing and some down, in the hope that would deter a charge. I sheltered behind a standing dead tree as the herd went by me. One cow and 2 year old went by about 5 feet away. Another time I looked back along a trail and a herd of bison were coming along the trail rapidly toward me. This trail did not have a good place to get off trail so I started running as fast as I could until I was able to turn off the trail and shelter behind a boulder. When I started, the bison were about 400 feet behind me, at the end about 50 feet.

From my last 3 entries I almost sound as if my hiking were fraught with fearful encounters with animals and that I was always nervous. That certainly isn't true, while an encounter may startle me and cause some brief fear, nearly always the anxiety soon gives way to a sense of priviledge to see such animals in a minimally altered environment. Part of the reason I hike in places such as Yellowstone and Glacier Parks is because of the potentially dangerous animals; the awareness of danger, not only from animals, makes hiking much different than walking along a nature trail.

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