Encountering Wild Animals
This page presents some basic information and suggestions on what to do when encountering wild animals in canyon country.
All animals and plants within our parks and monuments and the backcountry in general are considered to be wild and part of a complex and protected natural system.
- Avoid contact with wildlife; enjoy these wild creatures from a safe distance. Wildlife may appear tame, but may attack or bite if threatened. The larger animals are quick, powerful, and unpredictable. The presence of bubonic plague, rabies, fleas, and ticks has been detected in many parks and monuments and can be transmitted through contact.
- Do not feed wild animals (see Feeding Wild Animals).
- Watch for, and respect, poisonous animals such as snakes and scorpions. These animals will leave you alone unless disturbed or cornered. Shake out your shoes and boots before putting them on, and watch where you put your hands and feet.
- Bears (including black bears and grizzlies) live in many of our parks and monuments. Federal law requires proper food storage where they are present. Ask a ranger for detailed information. Learn what to do around bears.
- Wildlife may not be hunted, trapped, teased, injured, or harassed.
- Mountain lions may be present in some of the backcountry of our parks and monuments. Generally they are calm, quiet, and elusive. Learn what to do around mountain lions.
- Be alert for animals crossing roads, especially at dawn, dusk, or when roads are wet.
- Do not approach bison (buffalo). Bison can weight 2,000 pounds and can sprint at 30 m.p.h.; three times faster than you can run. Many visitors have been gored.
- Report inappropriate behavior to the proper authorities.
Feeding wildlife in most national and state parks and monuments is strictly prohibited (this includes squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and deer). In fact, feeding any wild animal can be dangerous to both yourself and the animal you are feeding. Wild animals that are fed by people are less likely to survive the winter, so keep wild animals wild. Let them find their own natural foods. Here are a few reasons to keep your food to yourself.
- Human foods, which are generally high in sodium and fat, pose great risk to wild animals. Species like prairie dogs derive all of their moisture from plants. When they eat human foods, their entire digestive system is altered.
- When animals are fed by humans, they may lose their fear of people. In turn, the animal may attack, bite, or kick visitors.
- Animals accustomed to begging and receiving food from passing vehicles may lose their fear of highways. This creates a dangerous situation and increases the possibility of car accidents which can injure both visitors and wildlife.
- When wildlife become dependent on human food, they lose their willingness, and sometimes their ability, to secure their own natural foods.
- In some cases, officials must eliminate sick animals that have been fed by humans. This is especially true when the animals' digestive systems are blocked with the inappropriate things they have eaten.
- Do not feed the wildlife.
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