A black bear looks to the camera while wandering the forest

Wildlife Safety on the Trails

Posted: 05/27/20

Big Bear Lake is home to numerous wildlife species. When enjoying the National Forest it is important to respect the natural flora and fauna for your safety and the well being of our environment.

Nature has a way of putting things in perspective and helping us appreciate the world we live in. We've heard it so many times that getting outdoors for a hike, a bike, a camping trip, or anything else is medicine for the mind, body, and soul. However, it's important to remember that we share our Big Bear Lake wilderness areas with numerous native species.

You may spot critters like squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits who pose little to no threat and are quick to scamper off at the sight of humans. Rarely, you may spot other wildlife like bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes who are equally averse to humans but can pose a danger if threatened or afraid.

Please remember these rules when in wilderness areas:

  • Do Not Ever Feed Wild Animals (it's when animals stop fearing humans that dangerous accidents occur)
  • Do Not Ever Approach Wild Animals (or allow children to chase smaller creatures like rabbits, birds, etc.)
  • Do Not Leave Small Children and Pets Unattended
  • Do Not Hike/Bike/Camp Alone (especially at night)
  • Be Aware Of Your Surroundings At All Times
  • Know Where You're Hiking/Camping At Let Others Know Where You Are

Spend some time learning about safe protocols when encountering wildlife in the forest!

Wildlife Safety

Rattlesnakes - As winter melts away and the warmer spring and summer months appear, rattlesnakes begin to make their way out of hibernation all around the Valley. It's important to understand that rattlesnakes are not naturally aggressive and don't seek out humans to attack. Most snake bites occur when the snake is handled, deliberately threatened, or stepped on. Many rattlers like to hide out under or near logs and rocks so be aware of your surroundings when stepping over these obstacles.

Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors. About 25 percent of the bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected, but the bites still require medical treatment. Depending on weather and threatening conditions such wildfires; rattlesnakes may roam at any time of the day or night. If walking at night, be sure to use a flashlight. US Forest Service

Read quick facts and learn the Do's and Dont's of Rattlesnake bites: From the US Forest Service

Further Reading: From the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Rattlesnake Clinic For Dogs

A rattlesnake sits coiled under a log.

Bears - Any bear you encounter in Big Bear Lake will be a black bear and like rattlesnakes, they tend to avoid humans. It's rare that you should encounter a bear. But just in case you do, follow these key guidelines:

  • Remain calm
  • Do Not Run!
  • Pick up any small children and group together everyone with you
  • Back away while facing the bear
  • Talk to the bear to identify yourself as human
  • If the bear approaches you, make yourself appear large and make noise
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it

Bears are naturally curious and always hungry. When camping, it's important to keep your site clean and to dispose properly of trash. NEVER store food or other attractants in or near your tent. Secure these items either in food lockers or away from your immediate site area.

Read further: Be Bear Aware

Bear Facts & Safety Tips

A black bear looks to the camera while wandering the forest

Mountain Lions - Whether you're in mountain lion territory or not, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Like bears and other species, mountain lions tend to avoid humans but even at a distance, a mountain lion - or cougar - sighting should be taken seriously. If the cougar hasn't spotted you, leave the area immediately. Never attract the attention of a mountain lion or approach one - especially kittens as the protective mother is nearby! If one does see you:

  • Do not run
  • Back away facing the animal and try to make yourself look large
  • If the animal approaches you, make noise, throw sticks or rocks
  • If the animal attacks, fight back
  • Never leave small children or pets alone unattended in the wilderness

Read further on Mountain Lion Safety: Mountain Lion Safety & Facts

From San Bernardino County

A mountain lion prowls the landscape.

Coyotes - While coyotes pose little threat to humans and mainly feast on squirrels and rabbits, cats and small dogs make an easy meal for local coyotes. Never leave small pets alone outdoors, even in a fenced yard, and don't leave small children unattended either. It's important to remember that it's never okay to feed coyotes or approach them. They may look like a pet dog but they are wild and unpredictable.

Keep these easy tips in mind if you spot or encounter a coyote in Big Bear.

A coyote in the wild looks towards the camera.