What To Do When You Encounter Wildlife - Native Campervans

What To Do When You Encounter Wildlife

Embarking on a campervan road trip is all about immersing yourself in the wonders of nature. From jaw-dropping landscapes to observing wildlife, there is always something to see. But let’s face it: nature can be wild, so being prepared is key. Though the chance of you having a dangerous encounter with wildlife is slim, we still want to ensure you know what to do. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the best practices for handling wildlife encounters during your campervan escapade!

Essential Guidelines 

  1. Always keep your distance! – Animals are unpredictable, especially during spring when territorial instincts are heightened. Ensure you maintain a safe distance to avoid making them feel threatened. Want a closer look? Pack binoculars for a safe viewing experience.
  2. Never feed wildlife – This is crucial. Feeding wildlife will disrupt their natural behavior. They will rely on humans to provide them with meals, making them unable to hunt for themselves. In addition, it increases the chances of an unwanted encounter. 
  3. Keep food secure – It’s equally important to keep your food locked away and safe. If they discover that campsites are an easy way to get a snack, they will continue to come back, making it a dangerous space for everyone. Luckily, you’re sleeping in a cozy campervan, so your food will be locked away safely! If you are ever camping, opt for a bear-safe container. Many established campgrounds have large bear-safe lockers you can store your food in. 
  4. Make Some Noise – While hiking, let animals know you’re around by making gentle sounds. This helps avoid surprising them and promotes mutual respect between you and the wildlife. 
  5. Bear Spray- Carry bear spray as an added precaution. You can rent a safety kit with your campervan, which contains bear spray. 
  6. Hike at appropriate times – Try to avoid hiking at dusk and dawn. This is when wildlife is most active. If you plan to go for a beautiful sunrise hike, follow rules four and five.

Bear Encounters 

There are two types of bears you may encounter: black and grizzly (brown) bears. For both, it’s important to stay calm. Always keep your distance, especially if they have cubs. If the bear hasn’t noticed your presence, back away slowly and get your bear spray out. Lastly, ensure all food is secured in a bear-safe canister. If the bear is interested, dump the food and back away. Most importantly, NEVER turn and run. Here is what to do based on each bear:
Black Bear
Make yourself look big, and start to talk to the bear. Black bears are far more timid and will likely want to avoid you at all costs. You do not want to play dead if this bear attacks. You will want to fight back using a stick or rocks. NEVER climb a tree. Black bears are incredible climbers and scale large trees in seconds. 

Grizzly Bear
You want to avoid looking like a threat, avoid eye contact, and back away slowly. Grizzly bears often do bluff charges. Try not to panic, but have your bear spray ready. In case of an attack, use your bear spray when the bear is 30 feet from you. If necessary, play dead. Make sure you always lie on your stomach, and if you get flipped, keep turning until you are back on your belly.

Cougar / Mountain Lion

In the event of a mountain lion encounter, make sure you don’t run. Face the cougar, and do not take your eyes off it. Make yourself look as big as possible and talk to it firmly as you slowly back away. If the cougar tries to approach, start to shout and even throw things at it. If it thinks you are a potential danger, it will back away. In the event of an attack, fight back. Use whatever you can. Stay on your feet and be aggressive. Also, use your bear spray and aim for the face. 



If you are visiting Yellowstone, there is a strong possibility you will run into bison. Bison in national parks are more accustomed to the presence of humans, but that does not mean they aren’t dangerous. If you keep your distance and do not try to scare it, you should have no close encounters. If the bison does attack, find protection behind a large object and protect your head and neck. Please remember to always drive slowly if you see bison on the road! 

Mountain Goat and Elk

Mountain goats and elk are docile if you keep your space, and an attack is very unlikely. As long as you keep a good distance from them, they will not charge. If they do, avoid the horns, move away, and, worse case, use what you can to beat it. 


Moose are very large, and you will likely see it before it sees you. Keep your distance, stay quiet, and back away slowly. If the moose does notice your presence, talk to it calmly. You do not want to appear aggressive towards a moose. Moose often do a bluff charge if they feel threatened. If it does, move behind something big, like a tree or boulder. If there is nowhere to hide, you can run. Moose will not chase you far and are likely wanting to get you away from their territory.  If the moose does attack, roll into a ball and do not fight back. During the springtime, be on high alert. Moose will be more aggressive if they have young. 


Rattlesnake encounters are rare and often easily avoidable. If you see a rattlesnake, keep plenty of distance and move around it slowly. The rattlesnake will not want to engage with you if possible. If the snake feels threatened, it will curl into a ball and shake its rattle. Be extra cautious if this occurs. In the rare chance you are bitten, clean the wound with soap and limit activity to avoid increasing your heart rate and blood flow. Go to the hospital immediately for anti-venom. 

We hope these wildlife safety tips! It is important to remember that while these are helpful tips and suggestions at the end of the day you should always use your best judgement when traveling. A great way to get updated information on wildlife encounters and best practices is to visit the visitors center for the National Park or State Park you are visiting.

With these tips in mind, enjoy your amazing campervan adventure and the wonderful sights of nature. Don’t forget to share your wildlife photos with us on social media @nativecampervans

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