Monday, August 11, 2008

WA hiker recently shot by hunter

Recently, a Washington state hiker was shot and killed by a bear hunter (link). I've blogged before about hiking during hunting season (here) and my conclusion was that I am basically comfortable most of the time. This recent incident raises my level of concern even though of itself it does not mean hiking has become more dangerous, simply that the dangers are now more to the forefront of my mind. I also want to keep the relative risks in mind, no other non-hunter has been killed in Washington by a hunter in the last 20 years. In those years, many hikers have been killed by falls, hypothermia, and other risks.

Like many hikers, I don't pay strict attention to hunting seasons. Of course I know when popular seasons are open, the number of obvious hunters makes that apparent. On the other hand some seasons, especially bear seasons, are much less obvious to me. If I don't realize it is hunting season, I may not make an effort to wear brightly colored clothing and not bushwhack or graze on huckleberries. I think I will be more careful about what I wear when hiking. Unfortunately my basic rain and wind shell is solid black, not a good color for hiking during bear hunting season. I have an orange vest but still am uncomfortable with the shell, too much black showing above the vest. I'm not sure what I will do, maybe replace the shell. I'm am already looking for some brighter mid weight tops instead of the black I now use. I do know the hiker killed was wearing a bright blue poncho which one would think should be bright enough to distinguish her from a bear.

I wish there were simple answers, I doubt there are. I wish hunters would not hunt on and around popular hiking trails but they also want access to the backcountry and need to find ways in. Of course I wish all hunters were certain of their target before shooting but experience suggests that isn't likely to occur. Most hunters may be very responsible but it only takes a small percentage of careless hunters for tragedies to occur. Looking at the population as a whole, there is always a percentage of people who are careless or reckless. Hunter safety courses help but do not eliminate the percentage of reckless individuals.

I'm not going to stop hiking during hunting seasons. I will weigh the risks and take appropriate safety measures.

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