Fall is one of my favorite seasons, as the heat of the summer lifts enough that I can hike at almost any time of day. However, with this lovely weather comes the extra awareness one must have about other creatures lurking about.
There is a lot of debate about the use of bear bells on ourselves or our pets. The old joke “What's in grizzly bear scat that isn't in black bear scat? Bear bells." Funny or not, the idea behind bells is to warn any predator of your presence. Dogs, being natural predators themselves, can spook wild animals if you aren’t careful. Bells are an easy way to ward off a potential ambush. Personally, I prefer to enjoy the sounds of nature and hearing a bell constantly as my pet is gallivanting through the forest isn’t my favorite option. In these instances, I rely on a few items to keep us safe: bear spray, my voice, and a couple of rocks.
Bear spray shouldn’t be used until the threat of an attack is imminent. While hiking, I frequently clear my throat and communicate in a deeper-than-normal voice with my dog who remains in close proximity and has excellent recall. (If your pet does not come easily when called, keep them on a leash until they have learned this essential skill.) Additionally, I find rocks that fit in the palm of my hand and occasionally smack them together to create a loud echo. This technique, coupled with my voice, has served me well over the years.
In the case of hunters, they too will appreciate your less intrusive presence but also need to see you! Adding a fluorescent color to you and your pet is crucial to remaining safe when hunting season begins. For a pet, I don’t recommend handkerchiefs or collars that tend to be too difficult to see. A cape or vest that covers a larger portion of their body is a better option. Most are lightweight and some are even made with a cooling section for the belly if the extra coverage causes concern about overheating.
The Ultra Paws Safety Vest is a lightweight option providing high visibility
The key to staying safe boils down to being heard and being seen. Be smart out there by being prepared!