If you hike a long trail, you’re bound to meet some wildlife on your journey. It’s a good idea to research what to do when you come into closer proximity with them. Below is some starter information for animal encounters, as experienced by Cheer on the PCT in 2019. Remember to be aware, respect the animals you see, give them their space, and know what to do to deter them if needed.

I (Cheer) mostly encountered snakes – of all kinds – in the desert. Most of them weren’t scary (you can just pound your trekking poles into the ground and they slither off trail). Rattlesnakes usually make themselves known (their rattle is really loud) & I gave them space. Be aware of where you’re stepping & if snakes aren’t moving easily, try throwing a rock near them (don’t hit them) or find a way around.

The only mountain lion I saw was at night in NorCal. Luckily I researched what to do (make eye contact, stand your ground, look big, & sing gently) & how to identify one at night (green eyes). Since I knew how to handle the situation, it wasn’t scary as much as it was thrilling. I respected it, it respected me…& after a couple of minutes it sauntered off.

Not a huge deal on trail…you learn to live with them in most cases. The worst 2/3 weeks of bug encounters were in NorCal and Oregon – mosquitoes. I wore my rain gear & head net when it got really bad, since the permethrin I doused my clothes with wasn’t effective at a certain point. 100% Deet has been said by many hikers to be extremely effective if you want to go that route.

I saw the most in NorCal, and they sometimes go after sweaty or salty gear in camp (like trekking pole handles). Check Guthook Guides tent site comments before you turn in for the night…you may need to put everything in your tent just so gear doesn’t go missing or get chewed up.

My first bear sighting on trail was the day I hit 2,000 miles in Washington, believe it or not! They are so skittish and I didn’t worry about them much. Just know what to do if you have a close encounter, which is something I researched before starting the trail.

Marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, skunk etc. These cute little fluffs are all over the trail and were really fun to watch! Just beware if you put your food in your tent at night, and make sure to use an odor proof bag. Otherwise you may get holes in your tent and gear! If in doubt, hang your food.

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Cheer, PCT Class of 2019
You can follow Cheer’s adventures on YouTube and her Instagram account.