Tips for Encounters with Dangerous Wildlife | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



Bears, Rattlesnakes, and Coyotes: How to Stay Safe Outdoors

The Western Slope has a variety of wildlife, and getting a glance of a bighorn sheep, bear, moose, or other animals can be a highlight of time spent outside. However, you also need to keep yourself safe.

Staying safe requires respect for wild animals because the outdoor spaces we love are their homes. Before your next adventure, be sure to review these essential tips for encounters with three potentially dangerous wild animals in Western Colorado.

Be bear aware in Western Colorado

Human-bear interactions have increased in Colorado, including on the Western Slope where black bear sightings are typically less common. Due to increased human impact encroaching on black bear habitats and changes in climate change, black bears are becoming present in areas where humans are present. Bears are opportunistic, and one of the best things you can do to keep yourself (and bears) safe is to store all food and trash properly. This is a good habit both at home and in the wilderness.

If you do encounter a black bear, here’s what you should do:

  • Avoid eye contact. The bear might stand on its hind legs to get a better look at you, in which case you should wave your hands over your head slowly and calmly speak aloud.
  • If the bear appears aggressive, walk away slowly. Do not run.
  • Black bear attacks are rare. However, if a black bear charges you, stand your ground and fight back if necessary. Yell loudly, make yourself appear as large as possible, throw rocks, and do whatever you can to scare the bear off, but do not “play dead.

Avoiding rattlesnakes on the Western Slope

The topic of rattlesnakes brings up strong opinions in this part of the state. Some people have been exploring the region for decades without a single encounter with a rattler. Others see these venomous reptiles regularly.

Regardless of personal experience, rattlesnakes do live in Western Colorado. The Colorado National Monument is an ideal environment for rattlesnakes, and there have even been sightings in Garfield County. Here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Snakes like to hide, so watch where you put your feet and hands.
  • Dogs are curious, and snakes are defensive. Keep your dog leashed and by your side at all times.
  • If you get bitten, don’t panic. The increased blood pressure will quicken the venom’s circulation. Never use ice or tourniquets, do not try to remove the venom by sucking it out, and keep the bitten area below heart level.
  • The best first-aid kit for snakebites is your cell phone and car keys. Call ahead to a medical facility if you have service, and visit the doctor as soon as possible.

Coyote safety on the Western Slope

The sound of coyotes howling isn’t uncommon here. Since coyotes are small, they tend to be fearful of adult-sized humans, but they’re also smart and have adapted to living near us. Children, small dogs, and cats are the most vulnerable to a coyote attack. 

These guidelines help your family and pets stay safe: 

  • When hiking or camping, always keep an eye on children and pets.
  • Keep a whistle or other noisemaker on hand when walking outside. Coyotes spook easily, and loud noises are an effective deterrent.
  • Don’t leave small pets outside unattended. Fences aren’t 100 percent effective at keeping wildlife, including coyotes, out of your yard. 

Other wildlife encounters in Western Colorado

Many people enjoy the outdoors without ever encountering a dangerous wild animal. If you maintain a safe distance, understand basic safety precautions, and respect their natural habitat, most animals will keep their distance.