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MTB Animal Encounters and What To Do

As much as we all love biking outdoors, there is always a chance we may encounter wild animal. We are in fact biking in their environment. As much as we hope this never happens unless, it a harmless animal like a rabbit or a deer. There’s always a great chance we may find ourselves in the territory of a moose or worse a bear. Fortunately, encountering dangerous wildlife is extremely rare. But if this happens would you know what to do? Read below to learn more about animals that we may encounter and what to do.

Animal Behavior

Typically animal encounters are unlikely. Animals are not out hunting down human, they attack because they are in fear. Keeping calm and having knowledge of the animal are valuable assets. Below we have listed the Top dangerous Animals bikers may face in the wild. Some of these animals are only found in certain area and environments. You should always look out for any warning signs and what animals are spotted most in a particular area before you plain on biking.


When you encounter a dog never assume it’s friendly! Which means never go up to the dog and try and pet it without getting permission from an owner. If you see a dog approaching you and it doesn’t look friendly be aware. Never try and out run the dog on your bike. The dog may try and bite your ankles knocking you off your bike.

What to do?

Stay confident and show the dog who is dominate. Have your bike in-between you and the dog. I know we all love our bike but using it as a shield can protect your life. Shout “Go Home” or “No” to the dog and point down the trail. This will show where you want the dog to go.

By doing this you are showing the dog that you are dominate and you will not tolerate this behavior. This should in fact lead the dog to stop and in most cases will make the dog behave. Another great tip is to have pepper spray on you. If you do get bite, try and find the owner and or go to the doctor as soon as possible to get rabies shots.


If an animal gets scared it’s usually the bikers fault. Sometimes an animal may feel trapped making the animal frighten and in a defensive mode. There are many types of bears but the most common are the Black bear and Grizzly bear. These bears can be found in many types of habitats, from dense forest to subalpine meadows, and open plains. Bear’s only show aggression and attack when they feel threaten, making bear attacks ver rare.

How to tell the two apart? The best way to tell the difference between a black bear and grizzly bear is the size of the shoulder, the profile of the face as well as the length of the claws. Grizzly bears have a pronounced shoulder hump, which the black bear lacks. The grizzly bear also have a concave facial profile, with smaller ears and much larger claws. The black bear has a flatter profile with larger ears, no visible shoulder hump and smaller claws.


What to do?

Black Bears

Black bears are found distributed throughout the United States in at least 40 states. You are most likely to find a black bear in forested areas less densely occupied by humans. If you encounter a black bear on your ride follow these steps. First you want to make sure it’s a black bear and not a grizzly bear. You want to speak calm in an appeasing tone and identify yourself. While doing so back away slowly, preferably in the same direction you came. Make sure you do NOT run! Always keep your eyes on the bear to watch its reaction. A great tip is to keep bear pepper spray on you. Bear pepper spray is a great defense spray that can be used 32 feet away.

Grizzly Bear

You are most likely to find a grizzly bear in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and small populations of Washington. Most of the time when you encounter a Grizzly bear they are in a defensive response. This can result in a physical contact that almost always involves surprising the grizzly bear at close range, on a carcass or protecting their young. The difference between the two bears is when you encounter a Grizzly bear do NOT move! Speak in a calm and low voice, slowly raise your arms in the air. This will make you appear bigger. If you see the bear with cubs you want to leave quickly. Mother bears are very protective over their young so you want to move backwards nice and slowly. Never run!

If the bear is about to attack try climbing a tree, due to their size Grizzly bears aren’t good climbers like their cousin the black bear. Another option is to play dead. Get your body in a fetal position, protecting your most vulnerable areas, try having your back face the bear. You should never play dead to a black bear, they will see you as a chase-free lunch. But Grizzly bears are dangerous creatures and like to chase and play with their food.

My last advice is to fight for your life. Try using bear spray; this will give you some time to escape. Otherwise, you want to scream out loud, kick, scream, punch and always go for the eyes. A great tip is to make noises when in their territory. Bears don’t like surprises having a bell, talking in loud voices or singing is a great way to let the bear know someone is around.

Interesting fact: You are more likely to be struck by lightening then being attacked by a bear.

Big Cats

The cougar is also commonly known as mountain lions, puma, panther or catamount. They spend most of their times spend in dense covers and hunt mostly at dawn or dusk. Although lions don’t see colors its best to wear bright neon colors. When you wear dark or mid-tone colors you will look more like a deer to them.

What to do?

It can be shocking to see a mountain lion, despite how trilled you may be you have to make sure to take the encounter seriously. Make yourself appear larger, to do this wave your hands around and open your jacket. Make noises by yelling and shouting. Act like a predator yourself, by maintain eye contact and throw rocks at the animal. Just like every other animal never run or turn your back to it! With big cats you want to make sure you don’t bend over or crouch down. They can quickly pounce on you and attack. The lion will go towards your neck and throat so make sure you first try and protect that area. Best tip stay in a crowed when biking in cougar area. Also be aware when you ride at dawn or dusk. Consider if your around lion kittens, if so back away slowly.


A mature moose can be very large weighing up to 1,200 pounds. Which is twice as much as the average bull elk. To tell the difference a moose has a dark brown almost black fur. While an elk can be light brown almost golden yellow fur tone. Moose have a very large and long bulbous nose with a “bell” under the throat. An elk snout is much more narrower and has no “bell.”

Typically moose will flee the area when they see humans. While elk are more likely to stick around. But both animals can be very aggressive when startles or if they feel threatened.

What to do?

Although they may appear gentle, wild moose and elk kill more people a year then Grizzly bears.

Always try and keep a safe distance away. Make sure you never approach a baby calf, there is always a chance that the mother is around. The average moose can weight upwards of 1,500 pounds that’s a lot of weight if a moose runs into you. Almost like getting hit by a car. Look for the warning signs that a moose will attack. Some signs to look out for is if the moose is walking in your direction, stomping its feet, has its ears back, grunting and throwing its head back and forth. Make sure you back away slowly with your palms facing the moose. Speak softly to the moose if it charges at you get behind an object such as a tree. If the moose or elk does attack you curl up in a ball. Protecting your head and neck with your arms.

With all animals never provoke the animal, and never run away from the animal. Analyze the situation, identify the animal and use what you know to protect yourself. Like I said an animal attack is very rare, but being out in the while long enough you may experience wildlife in one way or another. Having the knowledge and staying calm will protect yourself in the wild

Top Tips

  • Know your surrounding
  • Stay Calm
  • Don’t Run
  • Don’t scream talk in a low calm voice
  • Keep your bike between you and the animal
  • Back away slowly
  • Keep Pepper Spray on you
  • Keep a weapon if you feel more secure
  • Keep a line of communication such as a walkie talkie or cell phone
  • Let people know where you are biking and how you will be out for.

Image Source: www.bearsmart.com

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