Poulsbo Animal ClinicWhen Living (and Hiking) Among Wildlife, Pet Safety Comes First
Going into nature is known to soothe various ailments. It’s the one place we know we can unplug – and recharge. While the quiet stillness of the wilderness offers a relative sense of wellbeing, that doesn’t mean it’s without risk. Does our guard have to be up when we’re on the trails or in our backyards? Absolutely. The key to proactive pet safety is: it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. With that in mind, we offer the following tips for maintaining top-notch outdoor protection for your pet:
Know the Score
Most wildlife encounters happen very quickly and without warning. Knowing how to react and what to do to help your pet can make all the difference. Indeed, whether you’re in your own neighborhood or exploring somewhere else, it’s critical to be able to protect yourself and keep your pet out of harm’s way.
Washington state tracks all incidents with predatory wildlife. The largest threats involve bears, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and even moose. However, smaller wildlife, such as raccoons and skunks also place pets (and their people) at risk.
Outdoor Pet Safety at Home
At home it’s always best to keep the yard and refuse areas as tidy as possible. Wild animals are attracted by scent, so be sure to keep trash and compost covered, fenced in, or otherwise contained. Also:
- Fruit trees should be picked up after
- Thick areas of brush, wood piles, or leafy overgrowth are great hiding spots, so be sure to trim those down
- Clean up after the birds treat themselves at your bird feeders
- Do not leave food outside for your pet
- Ensure that doors and windows to sheds or similar outbuildings are secured
- Enclose poultry to keep birds of prey out of your yard
- Reinforce fencing
Out and About
Most dog owners fastidiously keep their dogs on leash wherever they go, but many become lulled by the false sense of security on trails. With no automobile or bike traffic to contend with, dogs can just let loose, right? Unfortunately, this can inadvertently cause your pet to have a dangerous run-in with wildlife that could be easily prevented with their trusty leash. Keep your pets safely tethered even when you are out exploring the trails.
Also, avoid being out and about (and frighteningly visible to stalking predators) at dusk.
Easier said than done, but if you and your pet have a wildlife encounter, stay calm. Fight the urge to flee. Instead, pick up your pet (if you can) and slowly back away. If you are pursued, yell, throw things like rocks, sticks, or sand at them. Blow a whistle and shine a flashlight towards the predatory animal.
Eye contact should be avoided with larger wildlife, like cougars, but keep it steady with coyotes. If you’re going into bear country, bring your spray deterrent for the simple sake of pet safety.
Pet Safety and Birds of Prey
Predatory birds can show up in your yard, especially if you have chickens. If you see a hawk or eagle, bring your pet inside immediately and do whatever you can to scare them away. At night, owls can be frightened off by a flashlight beam directed at them.
Nesting birds should be discouraged from building on your property. However, removing a nest with eggs or babies inside violates certain wildlife laws, as does harming the parents in any way.