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How To

As I’m currently shredding trails in Colorado, I thought I’d give you all the low down on five wild animals you never want to encounter, but might, on a run in the Centennial State:


grizzly bear

Chances are if you run in the woods enough, you’ll see a bear. Just pray it sees you and heads the other way before you see it. If you see it first and can back away slowly and quietly, do. Rarely will a bear attack, but if you do meet Smokey in the woods, follow these tips:

  • Start by making yourself look tall and shouting at the bear in a low voice. The bear isn’t going to know what you’re saying, but the idea is to get its attention and scare it away.
  • Avoid looking it in the eye. (Apparently bears have a little bit of Mariah Carey in them.)
  • Back away slowly. As tempting as it might be to just turn and run, no matter how fast you are, the bear is probably faster.
  • Fight back, This is actually recommended by the State of Colorado. If a bear attacks, don’t run, fight back!! People have been known to ward off bears with sticks and stones. Err… Good luck and get more detailed tips on surviving bear encounters here.

Mountain Lions

mountain lion

Unlike their African counterparts, these big cats are known to stalk the mountains in Colorado. And although I like to run topless when it’s hot, if you’re running where mountain lions have been spotted, make sure you pack your tee. Should you come across a mountain lion in your path, make some noise and make yourself as big as possible. Then – this is your chance to act like a 12 year old at a Bieber concert – take off that tee you were going to leave at home and wave it above your head. Maintain eye contact to establish dominance, do not run and stay tall while throwing rocks or sticks at the animal to scare it off. Keep your distance and try to back away slowly. Following these tips during an unexpected animal encounter should be enough to scare it off while keeping you out of danger.



Generally harmless if you keep your distance, elk are large animals and have charged humans when they felt threatened. Males are especially dangerous during rutting season (mating season) where they are more likely to view you as a predator or rival, while females with offspring will charge in protection of their young. Therefore if you do encounter these animals, especially in late fall or early spring, remember this:

  • Keep quiet- no need for loud noises or shirt waving with these creatures. Think of an elk as the head librarian… Keep it down.
  • Back away. While this is an amazing animal experience, it may be best to leave the photos for another time – especially if the elk seems agitated.



When I’m out on the trail, these stealthy, slithery reptiles are easily the one thing that scares me the most. Not because I think I can take a bear in a stick fight, but because with snakes, it’s just a matter of putting your foot in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you’re going to be trail running in Colorado, snakes on the trail are unavoidable in the summer months so you’ll need to hit the trails when it’s cooler to truly stay completely out of their way. However, they are very sensitive to vibration so it’s possible they will feel you before you feel them and slither away! When you’re in snake territory, carry an anti-venom kit, and if you are bitten, try to make a note of what the snake looks like exactly. Also, try to remain calm and lower your heart rate to slow the process of the poison spreading. 


touristsI’m not talking about out of town’ers – I’m talking about people who just shouldn’t be out on trails. Usually sporting Gucci sunglasses and a nice pair of flip flops, they have paid an SUV to take them to the lake that you’ve just spent the last 2 hours running & hiking to.

  • Avoid at all costs. 

It doesn’t hurt to run with a buddy out here either – just in case you have any wild animal encounters and need assistance getting back to civilization (or need someone to outrun once the bear is onto you). 

  1. Posted By longrunningfool

    You include elk but not moose? And I couldn’t care less about the tourist – glad they got their asses out the door. Maybe they’ll at least take a stroll around that lake and mind their own business while I mind mine.

    • Posted By joeboken

      Dealing with a moose is the same advice as dealing with an elk, and the tourist thing was just a joke, LOL

    • Posted By BaconLovingInfidel

      I wouldn’t call them tourists, but in most places in America, the most dangerous predators in wilderness areas are two legged.

  2. Posted By iResortApp

    That is a grizzly bear which is not really an issue in Colorado – smaller black bears are around but seldom seen – they are primarily nocturnal, as are mountain lions. And I agree – moose is your most dangerous animal out there, although the tourists can be nearly as scary (-:

  3. Posted By ScranunSlim

    re:: snakes
    Victim (snakebitten on the buttocks): “What’d the doctor say?”
    His buddy (whom the doctor told to start sucking venom outta the wound):
    “He said you’re gonna DIE!”

  4. Posted By LIBMRDucks

    They don’t have wolves in Colorado?

  5. Posted By SpiffyOne

    No grizzly bears in CO. Try again.

    • Posted By Jimbo Stepphens

      The super dangerous brown things you see crawling around Colorado are most likely Tre Tre Crips? Sort of like bears; I don’t like to shoot them because that makes them angry, and they usually have more and bigger guns than me.

  6. Posted By Finkster

    Don’t let Smokey Bear catch you out running around topless. It takes one swipe with his claw to put you out of commission.
    And Mountain Lions are known to attack single people out by themselves, with out you ever seeing them until they are in mid air to get you. Even in the day time.
    It’s always best to carry a hand gun when out in the wilds of the mountains. Just in case you do meet a hungry animal on the prowl.

    • Posted By BaconLovingInfidel

      If in brown bear country, a handgun is best as backup to an appropriate shotgun or rifle. Some blades, at least a nice Bowie are essential as well.

  7. Posted By JunkChuck

    Echo the others–Elk are largely predictable. Moose are CRAZY and quick-tempered. I had a friend come return to a trail head and find a moose attacking her parked mini van. $2200 damage–near as she could figure, said moose took exception to the reflections in the side window. Still, I’d rather take my chances with a moose than with the 1000 pound killing machine that is a grizzly–think feet the size of a dinner plate with pitchfork-like claws and those teeth mounted to 35mph sprinter.

  8. Posted By Lamont Cranston

    Take a gun with you, you never know when it might just save your life. I live in the Sierra’s and flat landers come up here to die every year. The mountains are pretty, but deadly.

    • Posted By Tobias Guggenheim

      I cannot tell you how many times I have been running where my mac9 has gotten me out of trouble. And that’s just in the city…

    • Posted By lewrod

      As an old guy who lives in the woods I’ve encountered all these critters. Bears three times and they have always turned tail and run. They are still hunted and still fear us. Mountain lions don’t seem to fear me and have walked slowly away other than when I fired a gun into the ground when one didn’t seem to be leaving quickly enough for me. Had a rattlesnake’s head rise out of knee high grass next to my left leg one day with his tail coming up within inches of my right leg. Scariest encounter of all. A quick jump backwards and a .357 mitigated that scare. Tourists are rare where I generally walk but are generally pretty agreeable. But I agree, the gun is a good idea.

      • Posted By daverg

        you left out ophra winfry and moochele obama

        • Posted By BaconLovingInfidel

          Okrah has the largest head and most powerful bite among all primates, bears, and sasquatch-type creatures. Some biologists believe she must have some amount of hippo DNA as only hippopotami and Okrah have been observed to bite full grown Nile crocodiles in half.

    • Posted By 2screwsloose

      take a gun but also take bear spray, a 9mm is just going to piss a bear off and make the attack that much worse. bear spray will stop a bear in its tracts, same for a mountain lion

    • Posted By solidspine

      Always take a gun!

  9. Posted By El Kevon

    Dumbest list ever. No grizzlies in colorado. Rattlers don’t live at high altitude. There aren’t venomous snakes in the mountains here, a few rattlers in the desert. Elk are not dangerous except for your garden

    • Posted By CBDenver

      Denver’s surrounding suburbs are at about 6,000 feet. Lots of hiking and biking trails. And yes there are lots of rattlesnakes.

    • Posted By AmericanHeretic

      I have seen rattlesnakes up to 9,000 feet. BTW, a gun is virtually useless against a rattlesnake, since the only dangerous snake is the one you don’t see.

      • Posted By bloodaxe

        I must disagree with your contention that a gun is useless against a rattlesnake as I shot quite a few with everything from .22s to 357 mags and 12 gauge shotguns. I was a Border Patrol Agent, down May-hee-co way. I eventually came to a sort of gentleman’s agreement with all the snakes which was: If you don’t bite me I won’t shoot you. It worked out well.

        • Posted By AmericanHeretic

          Bloodaxe, you are the kind of guy give gun owners a bad name. Once you see a rattlesnake it is easy to avoid being bitten. So, why kill a rattlesnake once you have spotted him and he becomes harmless. The American Indians have a saying that rattlesnakes only bite white men. Why do you think that is?

          • Posted By bloodaxe

            Because they’re a bunch of racist dogs, that’s why. Not only that, they’re wrong, rattlesnakes will bite anyone who steps on one. A few years ago a hiker was walking around Lake Cuyamaca, near Julian, CA (just east of San Diego) and he stepped on a big rattler. (the fang marks were 1 1/2″ apart)He was wearing sandals and the snake bit him on the foot. The venom must have hit a vein because that poor fellow was dead with 30 minutes.
            I no longer shoot snakes or much of anything other than paper targets. Like I said in my comment, I quit doing that as it was pointless and mean.
            Whenever I go plinking in the back country (what’s left of it) I always police up all my targets along with any trash left behind by others. I try to be a model citizen.

          • Posted By all_dems_suck

            douchebag leftwing poofer

          • Posted By gooner

            Wow another Fox News dumb dumb I’m suprised you’ve left your house with all that Ebola around

          • Posted By Jimbo Stepphens

            Agree with bloodaxe. Lots of the engines think fire water is a white man’s problem too.

  10. Posted By Jimm

    The snake in the photo is not venomous. Note the round pupils. The venomous American snakes, rattler, cottonmouth and copperhead all have elliptical pupils. Coral snakes are too uncommon to worry about.

  11. Posted By Stu Back

    I’m pretty surprised moose didn’t make the list. I’ve had run-in with a brown bear, was charged by a bighorn sheep, and–like most trail runners/hikers in the four corners states–have had a healthy dose of diamondback close-calls. The holy-hell-I’m-gonna-die, soil-the-shorts moment came when I inadvertently got between mama moose and her calf. To this day, they’re the animals that have me most on edge when I’m on a trail.

  12. Posted By dusaa1975

    Your dog will keep bears away.

    • Posted By bloodaxe

      I had a fat little Dachshund named Schultz. He was a champion skunk fighter. I don’t think he would have fared well against a bear. Poor old Schultzy went to doggie heaven many years ago. I miss him.

      • Posted By dusaa1975

        Bears have a natural dislike of dogs. This may be from the dog’s relationship to wolves.

        Bears avoid dogs not by sight, but rather by the mere smell of a dog. Thus the bear will be long gone before it sees a dog.

  13. Posted By Alex Bolla

    Carry a gun in the woods, DUH!

  14. Posted By Lee Johnson

    A gun isn’t going to do much good against a bear. The best solution to a bear is the old joke with the punchline, I don’t need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you.

    • Posted By myself98

      A gun isn’t going to do much good against a bear?
      What the hell?

      • Posted By Lee Johnson

        Yep. It’s kind of common knowledge. You may kill the bear, but it may take two or three days to die and in the meantime it killed you.

        There are weapons appropriate for bear hunting, but you don’t want to be using a ranch rifle or a pistol on a bear. Better off speaking softly to the bear and back away into a secure place (car, house) and then get out of there. The bear will almost always just go away.

        Banging pots and pans will also annoy them.

        • Posted By myself98

          Seems like they could make some sort of a stun grenade – flash, bang, gas, irritant, or combination – that would deter and confuse even a determined bear.

        • Posted By Kevin Scott

          Yeah you’re right. You might scare a bear away shooting the ground, but shooting the animal will only piss it off, and worse, it’s now injured and more dangerous.

          • Posted By Geheimish Verbotten

            Years ago when I was younger, I ran across a wild grizzly bear. I was with my father. The bear was about thirty yards out. We split apart to make it harder for the bear to attack both of us at the same time. We both had 12 gauge shotguns with rife shot. I fired just above him and the bear reared up, then dad fired close to him and the bear turned around and ran. We both felt that we were very lucky with the results of that encounter. When we told the forest ranger later that day, he agreed with us.

        • Posted By whiskytime

          I scared an approaching Grizzly bear by merely shaking my noisemaker, a tin can with gravel.It looked up sharply, and ran uphill away from me. Regarding guns an bears, the Louis and Clark journals are fascinating to read.They had never seen Grizzleys before. They first fired at the heads but the bullets bounced off. They then learned to aim only for the heart, and shoot in tandem with another hunter at the same time.They once had to jump into a river to avoid a enraged and injured bear. I don’t know if .357 or .45
          could stop one of these beasts.
          Your advice makes sense , a police whistle, in a situation where the bear is a good 20 ft. away or further. I don’t know if it would work at a really close encounter, 5-10 feet.

      • Posted By bloodaxe

        Yes it will.

    • Posted By Jim Monk

      I ll rely on a 44.Mag anyday.

    • Posted By AmericanHeretic

      As the old joke goes, if you shoot a bear with a 9mm, be sure to file off the front sight first so that it doesn’t hurt so much when he sticks it in that part of your body where the sun don’t shine.

  15. Posted By Jake Lakota

    This tips are hilarious, my first instinct will be to say “OH SH*T” Then , I will turn on the charm, “Well, hello ‘der Mista Bear, how are you today?” For those of you who like the beach when you go into the water, at least on the right side of the country, shuffle your FEET in the sand. This will keep you from stepping on stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

  16. Posted By Jim Monk

    Bear spray and a LARGE caliber weapon.45 or 50 cal. Minimum.

  17. Posted By bleedinell

    Why anyone would run in the wilderness without carrying at least a .44 mag is beyond me.
    If you’re going on a wilderness run unarmed, you are tempting fate. Nature’s law will always prevail.

    • Posted By krankyvet

      I live in the woods in the Sierra, I see bears often. I don’t carry a weapon. I do carry a top quality police whistle. Bears hate the whistle and always leave when I use it. As for rattlesnakes, they are all around my part of the woods. They take out gophers, field mice and other problem creatures that raid my garden. A 5 foot diamondback was on my front walkway just the other day, enjoying the sun. No bigge. When I encounter them I encourage them to get back to work, which they usually do. Best defense for big cats, dogs. As already noted, do not mess with elk cows with calves or horny males. A real problem around here is the hybrid hogs. A cross between wild Russian Boar and feral domesticated hogs. They tear up everything they encounter, including people. THAT’S when I drag out the artillery. The only danger from tourists is from dying of laughter…

      • Posted By bleedinell

        I live in Griz country. Walking in the wilderness without proper protection is suicide.

        • Posted By krankyvet

          The whistle I carry was given to me by a National Park Ranger. Before coming to the Tahoe region, he worked in Yellowstone. He is the one that taught me about bears and whistles. He said that because bears hear so well that the whistle is very disturbing to them, the sound will cause them to retreat, even grizzlies. My experience is only with black bears. I am not going out looking for grizzlies to test this. Of course, safety starts with the use of the gray matter between one’s ears! I see way to many people running around in the woods with guns. Most should neither be in the woods nor carrying guns…

  18. Posted By Oldhills

    Cow elk with a calf is one of the most dangerous animals in the western U.S., especially if you have an unleashed dog rushing around ahead of you. The elk will chase the dog and the dog usually runs right back to you, presenting you with a bad situation. Climb up on something reasonably high and let the dog fend for itself. A bull elk in rut in August-September can keep you up a tree overnight, choose a comfortable one if you have a choice.
    A black bear can run for a 1/4-mile at 35 mph (in front of my Jeep) a coyote is good for 25 mph for a few hundred yards.
    Two old friends, now passed on, had only fishing poles to fend off initial rushes from cougars, until a substantial supply of thrown rocks and swung tree limbs managed to discourage them, over 20 minutes in one case.

  19. Posted By darvin

    Sounds a lot like profiling. Can’t have profiling in our wilderness

  20. Posted By Calie girl

    This writer should mention the type of snakes that are dangerous — i.e. rattlesnakes not king snakes. And, as one person mentioned, MOOSE —- as well as elk and deer.

    • Posted By bloodaxe

      …and out in the desert there’s the dreaded Grasshopper Mouse, a ferocious predator. They have fleas (Bubonic Plague!) and carry the Hanta virus.

  21. Posted By A_jenson

    That first pic is of a griz. If any of you Colorado people see a griz (extinct in Colorado) you might consider leaving your doobie at home.

    • Posted By Brad Church

      The picture is yes, but the words are about “bears” in general. Make the connection and stop being so literal.

  22. Posted By TastesLikeEmu

    Bears – Had one enter my tent, with me in it, in the Sierra Mountains. With our noses only the length of a Twizzler apart, we both took stock in the situation and the bear left. I am 6’6″ 300lbs and I hadn’t shaved for a while. All I can figure is he didn’t think my sunflower seeds were worth the effort.

    Mountain Lion – Had one kill a pair of my Emus in my back yard (5 acre yard). Our living room is getting a cool Mountain Lion Rug if he ever comes back.

    Elk – Not everyone knows that you don’t get between Momma Elk and her baby, fortunately, I know better.

    Snakes – My Emus kill them all the time. They taste like chicken (The snakes, not the emus).

    Tourists – OMG. When traveling abroad, I forget how to speak English. These people are an embarrassment and they scare me.

  23. Posted By Arlinda2

    We saw a herd of buffalo that I wanted to photograph. My Cree friend and guide said no picture taking outside of the car. My feet were already on the ground and I started to walk towards the biggest most amazing bison I’d ever seen. Suddenly the bison charged to kill me but my friend threw me and my stupid camera into the car which the buffalo attacked and tried to demolish. I love the American wilderness but knowing how to survive in it is as important as loving it. My friend taught me how to read the environment like an indian knowing fresh signs from old ones, how to be cautious and respectful and how to shoot if necessary. He doesn’t hike trails, mountaineer, run, make friends with wild life or shoot them unless he plans to eat them. He knows how to avoid bear, buffalo, lion, wild cats and wolves and so did everyone else on the reservation. I learned that guns, smarts and respect are crucial to enjoying and surviving the American wilderness. And having a Native American friend to enjoy it with and learn from it is as good as it gets.

  24. Posted By Peter Pratt

    Sage advice. A well armed runner can ignore all of the largely unhelpful tips above my crown.

  25. Posted By Cheeseheadmike

    Carry a revolver, preferably .38 special or .357 magnum. Make sure that it has smooth edges and a concealed hammer. You don’t want it to snag in your pack when you need it in a hurry. Do not carry a semi-auto pistol. It will certainly jam when you need it most. Murphy’s law.

    Mountain lions and cougars are stealth/surprise hunters. You often won’t know that one is there until it jumps on your back. Scan overhead branches along the trail.

    The scariest thing to me is the criminals that lurk in the national parks. At least animals are somewhat predictable. Meth heads are not. This is where the gun comes in handy.

    On a side note- I remember in Air Force survival school that they told us to never eat polar bear liver. The iron content is at toxic levels. We wondered how we could convince a polar bear to give up his liver in the first place…

    • Posted By BaconLovingInfidel

      “Mountain lions and cougars are stealth/surprise hunters. You often won’t know that one is there until it jumps on your back. Scan overhead branches along the trail.”

      Fortunately, mountain lions will kill off all of the cougars in the wilderness.

  26. Posted By homeisthehunter

    Elk are usually no threat unless it is a bull in rut or a cow that has JUST calved. In both cases hormones are raging off the chart and usual behavior is out the window. Both situations are in narrow windows in spring and fall. I have traversed through elk bedded in dark timber on numerous occasions.

    Cats will usually treat people like they have more sense and senses than most possess. They will use the wind in their favor (thinking you can smell them) and will approach from behind if possible. I have found cat tracks on my tracks on many occasions. One of my family was caught by a mountain lion and rescued by a brother. They prefer deer but cat numbers are high and CWD has taken a toll on deer herds in recent years.

    Black bears and Grizz are two different critters. Unless a black bear is very hungry or has been socialized by people it will run from you. If a black bear doesn’t run you can assume you have a problem (no longer a question). A Grizzly will attack if it has cubs, if you are near a kill (they like to bury a kill and come back to it at leisure… it usually looks like a giant roto-tiller was employed), if you are in a place where they are wanting to go, or if you are in a place that they think some day they might want to go.
    Now we are seeing more people who want to release Grizzly into Colorado. Undoubtedly those same tourists that travel by SUV.

  27. Posted By homeisthehunter

    A couple more thoughts…a .357, .41, or .44 can be effective against bear (both Black and Grizzly) if you are proficient with a handgun…and if you are loaded with hard cast or full metal jacket (penetration is key). I wouldn’t go smaller and I wouldn’t go larger. Soft point or hollow point will get you killed. The target is the head and multiple shots may be required….obviously the last resort in the gravest extreme and also effective against two legged predators.
    Moose are making a comeback in Colorado and are in other mountain states and Alaska. A cow moose with a calf is dangerous ALL THE TIME (kind of like a grizzly) and that 800 lb. animal can move those long legs with amazing grace and speed. Be quiet. Look for a tree or rock you can get on or behind. Do not approach to take pictures unless you like being a statistic.

  28. Posted By Robert S Look Jr

    In the Eastern Appalachian woods I would be cautious but not too concerned with all the listed critters. What I would be most concerned about are Ticks. I have probably run into over 20 black bears in SNP and never had a problem even when I had found myself between momma and her three cubs. I did accidently turn a corner and surprise a 500 pound bruin. He was about 15 feet from me and feeding. He was as surprised as I was. He jumped up and down on his front paws and huffed at me but I just looked at him and said ah come on who are you kidding. He turned around and walked away. Of course I am a pretty big man. All that said, black bears can become rabid and a rabid crazed black bear could be a very dangerous thing. Also Brown or Grizzly bears are completely different animals and will attack with very little provocation. Please get bear smart at the North American Bear Center’s web site;

  29. Posted By Jimbo Stepphens

    Also, don’t forget members of the African race. I linked to this Article from the Daily Caller, where they were pointing out the danger that those animals pose to us good folks, and brother is it scary! Way more dangerous than any of these predators. I wonder why a left-wing dope outfit like Merrell, which caters to vegans and non-whites and other loser trash would buy ads on a right-thinking white rights storm front blog like the Daily Caller?

  30. Posted By Wordsworth_from_Wadsworth

    I have seen plenty of huge bull elk in northern Arizona. They jump away. I always wondered how a wolverine would react. They are vicious, always hungry, and eat something like 10x their mass.

  31. Posted By PegLegJim

    When at the general store by Moosehead Lake (Maine), a “flat-landah” came in looking for ammo. He told the woman he wanted some .38’s “for protection”.
    She said “Protection against what?”
    When he said “Bear!”, everyone just burst out laughing.
    The poor flat-landah asked “What the hell is everyone laughing at?!?”
    She said(with a straight face) “If you plan on using that .38 on one of these bears, you might want to file the front sight offa’ that thing”.
    When the fool asked her “Why???”
    She said “Because when he takes it away from you, and shoves it up your A$$, it’s gonna’ hurt a WHOLE LOT LESS!!!!!
    The moral of the story?:
    If you’re going to pack in the woods, pack a REAL gun with “Stopping Power”, or you WILL just piss them off………

  32. Posted By David Tremblay

    Mountain lion defensive strategy is as useless as worrying about being attacked. It’s like defensive strategy for a piano falling on you that you don’t see coming. Attacks are rare, but when they do happen the person realizes what’s happening right after they are rolling on the ground with claws between their ribs and fangs in their neck. Ever get into it with a little pet feline and see their speed? Imagine a 90-120lb version that hasn’t eaten in 5 days.

  33. Posted By Brad Church

    Fear the MEECES! (Plural for moose to us country boys…)

  34. Posted By Peter Boddie

    You forgot moose. They can be very dangerous.

  35. Posted By MitzyKitty

    I’d rather take my chances meeting these animals than the two legged ones. They’re the most dangerous ones.

  36. Posted By whiskytime

    Iv’e had an experience with Grizzley Bear coming out of Slough creek trail in NW Yellowstone Park,Also two close meetings with Rattling rattlers ready to strike. The American wilderness is full of wild things.You travel there at your own peril!

  37. Posted By Fraga123

    When hiking outdoors, bring pepper spray and tie bells to your clothing in the event you encounter a bear.

    You can tell bears are nearby by their distinctive scat, which smells like pepper spray and often has tiny bells in it.

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