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Last Modified: March 1, 2023

A Quick Guide to Wildlife Safety

Published on September 4, 2015 • Last updated March 1, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Being Safe in Utah (General Safety), Current Events

Elk in the mountains

Elk, Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Colorado, Nature

Our lovely state of Utah is home to many unique plants and animals that we have the pleasure of interacting with on a daily basis. Whether it be hummingbirds that frequent your garden or the startling moose that wanders into your backyard, Utah’s wildlife is everywhere. This September 4th, on National Wildlife Day, take the time to recognize and appreciate the animal kingdom and the groups of humans who work to preserve their populations.

While you may prefer to observe your wildlife at a zoo where the animals are in enclosed settings, there’s always the possibility of coming face to face with a wild animal on a hike or during a camping trip. If you set out this September 4th to observe all that Utah’s wildlife has to offer, remember, your safety should always be the first priority.

In order to keep both you and the animals you’re observing safe, know the necessary precautions you should take in order to avoid an attack.

Keep a safe distance

Observing an animal in its natural habitat is an excellent learning opportunity. However, as you appreciate its beauty, make sure you also respect its power. Always maintain a safe distance between you and any species of wildlife. If the animal perceives you as a threat, they can become aggressive and possibly attack.

Know what to do if threatened

Some of the most common animals you may encounter in the Utah wilderness are rattlesnakes, bears, and moose. Here are the actions you should take if confronted by one of these animals.


  • For the most part, rattlesnakes will mind their own business. They fear you as much as you fear them, so keeping your distance is the best course of action.
  • If you spot a rattlesnake, do not try to kill or harass the snake. In fact, doing so is illegal in Utah.


  • If you encounter a bear, stand your ground. DO NOT back up, lie down, or play dead. These signs of submission may provoke the bear to attack.
  • If the bear attacks, bear spray can be an effective deterrent. If you have a firearm, you should shoot to kill. Whether you have a weapon or not, you should fight the bear with anything you can—even if that’s just your arms and legs.
  • Learn more about bear safety here.


  • Keep your distance, and keep an eye out for any signs of aggression, such as hair standing on the back of its neck, snout licking, or putting its ears back.
  • Talk to the moose—this actually makes them aware of your presence and shows them you’re not trying to surprise them. Slowly back away as you do this.
  • If the moose charges, hide behind something solid like a tree.
  • If it’s attacking you, lie down on the ground, curl into a ball, and protect your head with your arms until the moose stops.
  • Learn more about moose safety here.

Check out this website to learn all of the preventative measures you can take during the threat of an animal attack.

Pets and wildlife

If you like to bring your dogs on your nature hikes, make sure you keep them on a leash. An unleashed dog may accidentally disrupt nesting grounds or antagonize a larger animal, causing it to attack. It is also against Utah law to allow your dog to chase or harass Utah wildlife.

Keep your pets safe by ensuring that they are either inside or carefully supervised during the dawn or dusk hours, as these are the favorite times for wild animals to roam.

Stay safe

Utah’s wildlife is quite the sight to see, especially when you get to observe them in their natural habitats. While their behavior is interesting and astounding to watch, we must recognize that in the end, animals are unpredictable. This National Wildlife Day, take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and explore an environment that’s more familiar to another species. However, always be wary of your surroundings and know both the preventative and emergency measures you may need to take when you spot an animal in the wild.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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