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Best wildlife encounters?
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Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Best wildlife encounters? on 02/25/2013 18:14:35 MST Print View

There was the moose that walked right in front of us during the trek along the Teton Crest. And the coyotes Tom and I saw in the Sierras, and the four bears during one trek on the Black Forest Trail (one right in the middle of the trail eating something).

But my favorite story was when a buddy and I were riding our bikes around Ireland. We were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, with very few houses and/or traffic, when, late in the day, we happened upon a bull in the middle of the road. It must have escaped from an area farm. And it was quite ornery. We started to ride toward it, and it lowered it's head and advanced. We stopped. Figuring we'd be less 'irritating' if we dismounted, we began slowly walking, trying to get past it. But it once again lowered it's head, stamped it's foot a time or two, and advanced again. We backed off quickly.

We were in a bit of a quandary. It was getting late, and we still had some miles to the campground. Going back wasn't really an option, as there was nothing behind us for miles. But every time we tried to go way around it, it made it quite clear that it wasn't going to allow us to do that. Suddenly we heard a truck off in the distance behind us. "Get ready!" I yelled! Thomi knew what I meant.

We backed up quite a bit, the bull watching us the whole time. Then we got a running start as the truck approached, and rode 'with' the truck past the bull, keeping the truck between us and the bull. Never pedaled so fast in my life! But we made it, and began laughing loudly as we continued on our way to the campground.

Fun times.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Best wildlife encounters on 02/25/2013 18:25:48 MST Print View

Charged by this grizzly in Alaska on account of a dispute over some fish, not one of my best encounters.

This was actually my favorite. On the NPT in the Adirondacks, the trail crosses right over the top of a number of beaver dams. This guy did not appreciate that much, and did his best to dissuade me. He repeatedly swam up to me, turned upside down, and whapped the water with his tail as he dove under, soon surfacing to see if he had chased me off. It was the first time I had seen this defensive behavior and I was enthralled. Still, not wanting to be the first backpacker mauled by beaver, I ultimately moved on.

rowan !

Locale: SF Bay Area
Scary creatures in the night... on 02/25/2013 23:50:35 MST Print View

Here's one from long ago. I was 17, and decided to spend a week camping alone on some land owned by friends of my parents in the Colorado Rockies. Winter was not quite over, and there was a light covering of snow on the ground. Sometimes I could hear coyotes howling on the surrounding hills. During one night I heard footsteps going around and around my tent. I was terrified, had visions of a pack of coyotes circling closer and closer, ripping open my tent and eating me! Eventually they left and I fell asleep. The next morning I peeked outside, and in the snow I saw a neat circle of rabbit tracks around my tent!

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Best wildlife encounters? on 02/26/2013 00:39:29 MST Print View

Killer Whales (Orca's) have provided a few exciting encounters for me.

I was fly fishing (wading waist deep) off the beach when two transient Killer whales suddenly appeared in front of me. Transient whales are known for eating mammals rather than fish, so I decided to back out of the water and watch the show from a safe place (I've seen the films of killer whales beaching themselves to get seals and I just can't get that picture out of my brain... they always make me nervous when they are around).

I followed them along the beach to a little cove where they went into high gear. They raced around like mad for a minute or two, kicking up quite a turbulence in the water when suddenly a seal went cart-wheeling through the air. That ended the excitement (in the water at least), and I just stood there with my mouth hanging open as they quickly finished their lunch and swam off. I don't take a camera when I fish alone but I very much regretted than decision on that trip.

Killer whales will often come very close to us when we are fishing. I took this photo while we were fishing close to shore and was surprised that the whale would come between us and the shore. Unfortunately, that was the end of my fishing (fish vanish when the whales arrive).


Hugh Teegan
(hteegan) - MLife
Lots but best was when the wildlife just wanted to hike with me.... on 02/26/2013 02:16:52 MST Print View

Last year while hiking solo in Mount Rainier National Park I was joined by this guyWell, Hi there! following along on the trail. At first he went around me and I waited about ten minutes to let him get away before continuing but somehow he showed up behind me againHello again.
I continued walking (backwards) and the bear continued to follow. Every time I stopped the bear would become intensely interested in something beside the trailI wonder what's under that rock? but the bear would immediately resume following me when I started to move againI'm with ya. Though he was briefly distracted by the wonderful view from this pointWow - look at this! BTW I got my claws done whaddyathink?
...and off we go againWait for me!
I was coming to a downhill section of trail where it would be difficult to walk backwards so I said goodbye, turned around and walked away. Not sure why I wasn't scared but I probably should have been.

Edited by hteegan on 02/26/2013 02:22:20 MST.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Swimming Lessons on 02/26/2013 05:30:06 MST Print View

I drove up to Banff with my family last year. Even though I've been to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Banff a couple times each in addition to the fact that I've camped throughout Idaho and Washington, I must wear some form of natural Moose repellent as I'd never seen one in the wild. I was determined that come heck or high water I would finally find one.

First day in the park, we saw this cow moose and her calf wading through the stream. At one point, the current started to get the best of the calf but the mother calmly waited for it and allowed for the calf to work through the challenge. I'm usually guilty of overanalyzing everything but I thought that she set a pretty good example for parents everywhere.


Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Re: Scary creatures in the night... on 02/26/2013 05:58:36 MST Print View

That one made me smile at work!

I had a similar experience. I was hiking on the Juan de Fuca Marine on Vancouver Island. I had a very late start to my hike and set up my hammock around midnight for the very first time. Trying to get comfortable in a hammock, it took me a while to fall asleep. I finally go to sleep with thoughts of “bear burrito” on my mind. I wake up in the morning and remember a very vivid dream. In the dream I was in my hammock with my face pressed up against the No-see um mesh netting. I open my eyes and see a bear snout sniffing me on the other side of the netting. In the dream I say to myself – no hasty movements are in order.

I’m still a little unsettled by that dream as I’m packing up my hammock. As I go to leave, and about 5 feet from my hammock I find a steaming fresh pile of bear p o o h!

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Wildlife Encounters in PA on 02/26/2013 09:24:46 MST Print View

I'm okay seeing snakes along the trail as long as I see or hear them before I'm on top of them. On one stretch of the West Rim Trail in PA a couple of years ago I almost stepped on three of them on the trail in the space of about 10 minutes. I let someone else take the lead after that!

We were hiking on the Mid State Trail in June 2011 along the ridgetop above Rte. 322 and the trail was completely overgrown. I almost kicked a porcupine in his tail as he scurried along in front of me. I didn't see him until the guy behind me saw him scoot off the trail right in front of my foot.

He then climbed a small 6-foot tree right next to the trail to get away from us...

Porcupine along the MST

My other favorite was along the Old Loggers Path in May 2010. On our second day we were hiking along one of the old railroad beds with a mile-long straight stretch. I was in the lead and spotted a hiker coming towards us with a very unusual gait. Shortly after that I realized it was a bear with her three cubs.

Bears on the OLP

It's not easy to see (my little Olympus camera was zoomed to its 7x max), but one of the cubs is actually a blonde. Right after I took this picture she led her crew uphill off the trail to avoid us. We didn't mind.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Wild life encounters on 02/26/2013 10:35:59 MST Print View

Here is my favorite marmot, at the Swiftcurrent lookout in GNP:

Swiftcurrent marmot

In 2006, I was adopted by a family of goats at Lake Ellen Wilson in GNP. They followed my every move for the afternoon, evening, and all the next morning. I'm convinced that goats don't sleep, as they were tripping over the guy lines of my Squall 2 all night.

Goat family

The next morning, they escorted me up Gunsight Pass. They would pass me, wait off the side of the trail for me to catch up, let me get ahead of them, and then come bounding by again. It was like a game to them.

Goat escort

At the pass, I was about to take a photo of Gunsight Lake, where I was headed. Momma goat grunted something about how I needed to take my photo from a different spot. (Lake Ellen Wilson is behind her)

Goat mom at pass

She was right:

Gunsight Lake from the pass

So I encouraged her to follow me down the trail to Gunsight Lake. She just grunted, and immediately joined her kids and they all bounded back down to Lake Ellen Wilson. Apparently the pass was the border of their domain, and they were just out for a jaunt, to be sure that I left their turf in proper fashion. Fun stuff...

A week later, I was camping at Kootenai Lakes in the north of GNP. Lots of moose there. In the morning, I was the last hiker to leave the camping area, as I had plenty of time to hike the 2-3 miles back to Goat Haunt to catch my boat ride back to Waterton. I sat on a log on the lake shore, watching a mother moose and her yearling on the other side. All of a sudden she moved directly toward me. I figured she was just going to eat some grass growing in the lake. But she and the yearling kept coming. Back at my campsite my pack was ready to put on. I decided that when she got to the middle of the lake, she would have to swim, which would slow her down and give me time to get to my pack and get out of there. The thing is, that lake was only maybe 2-3 deep in the middle, and she came across quickly. By this time I realized that she felt I was her biggest problem. I hurried back to the campsite, looked for a good tree to maybe climb (there wasn't one), pulled out my 4" Spyderco blade and pepper spray, and prepared to make my feeble stand. When she got to the trail that rings the lake, maybe 50 feet from my campsite, she grunted to her yearling to stop there, and then another, different grunt to instruct her baby to move down the trail away from me. Then she quickly bounded over thick and high deadfall to get right in my face. She grunted all sorts of things, dug at the ground with her front hooves, sprayed moose-spit on me (she was just 15 feet away), and generally let me know that I was about to be dead meat. At that point, I realized my knife and pepper spray might be useless--the spray might just anger her more, goofy as moose are, and about the only good that knife could do is let me slice my own throat to lessen the impending pain. I kept talking to her in sweet, soft tones, and after a few minutes she bagan to settle down. Finally, she let out a loud and forceful "HAR-UMPH," then she abruptly and quickly bounded back over the deadfall to join her yearling. That was the first moose word that I learned, which I think means "There, you sombitch, clean your shorts, get out of here, and tell everybody you see to never, ever come to my lake!" (BPL doesn't accept TIFF images; also, no yearling moose were harmed during this wildlife encounter).

OK, so about 3 weeks after the moose adventure, I was in Yellowstone. I came upon a huge female bison , which was standing right in the middle of the trail, staring at me. There was a steep dropoff to my left, and a serious pile of deadfall to my right behind the thick brush that lined the trail. To give her a wide berth, I had to climb up onto the deadfall, and try to inch my way past her. I was stepping from one 10" log to another, using trekking poles to keep my balance 3-4 feet above the ground. It was tiresome, and also a bit dangerous, as I was concerned about blowing out a knee somehow. After going maybe 50 yards in 20 minutes, I decided I was probably well past her. When I got back to the trail, there she was--looking at me as before. She had followed me, but she got to use the trail. I had no choice but to go back into the deadfall maze and keep doing it. After another 75 yards or so of that slow grunt atop the logs, I had a better view of the trail this time, and it seemed like she wasn't around now, but rather moved away from the trail. I guess she lost interest.


In 2011, I was hiking solo to Iceberg Lake in GNP. There was no one else around, so I made lots of noise and sang my songs. I came to a curved brushy corridor that was maybe 7 feet tall, and I could only see 30-40 feet ahead. That's when I met the griz, face to face. It seemed a little confused, so I talked sweetly and slowly backed up. When I got out of the brush and back to the open trail, I scooted uphill maybe 100 feet until I was pinned by a steep snow field. I waited there, pepper spray in hand. After several minutes, here came the bear, casually ambling down the trail. I kept quiet and just watched it go by.

Griz mom

After it passed, I decided it would be safe to resume my hike in the opposite direction. When I took my first step toward the trail, I saw the first of that bear's cubs. There were 3 of them in all. After they made it past me, I was about to slip in behind them and continue my hike. But one of the cubs got curious and decided to come up to see who/what I was. Mom saw this and kept a very watchful eye on things.

Curuious cub

When the cub got to within 40 feet of me I knew I had to do something, and fast. So I started screaming at it. Mom finally let out a low grunt, and the baby did a quick about-face and rejoined the siblings. Then they all moved on down the trail. All's well that ends well.

Bears leaving

Last summer, at Cracker Lake in GNP, I had a midnight duty to perform. I found a flat rock, did my business, and got back into my bag. Sometime later, I woke up to what had to be the sound of a griz digging and rooting near my tent. Turned out it was this guy:

Cracker goat

He was the campsite's resident goat, getting his human urine however/whenever he can. Like I said, I don't think goats sleep.

Final story: 3 days later, I was at the Morningstar campsite in GNP. I set up my Contrail in late afternoon, and I was the first camper to arrive. I was inside the tent, lying on my stomach head first to fiddle with the pad at the foot of the tent. I heard a huge splash in the lake that I was camped by. I quickly slithered back out to meet this guy:

Morningstar moose

He decided to come closer to check me out. Not trusting any moose, ever, and despising them all for being so territorial and goofy, I slipped over to the campground's outhouse where I might find some protection. It turned out to be a non-event, and my moose went somewhere else. But there actually were 4 adult males in all, and they all bedded down right on the trail between the tent sites and that outhouse. Nobody used the privy that night, and the guys all chose to rather bait any goats that might be nearby instead.

Sorry for this endless post, folks. I had nothing better to do, since the stock market is so silly today.

(Edit: massive number of spelling/syntax errors)

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 02/27/2013 16:07:45 MST.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Wild life encounters on 02/26/2013 10:54:31 MST Print View

Gary, Beautiful photos!

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Wildlife encounters on 02/26/2013 11:16:02 MST Print View

Thanks, Link!

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Various on 02/26/2013 12:53:39 MST Print View

I was hiking the Tatoosh Range in Rainier NP when I topped out on one of the peaks and almost ran into a Mountian goat. He was not amused.

I had a black bear cub "charge" me in Lost Creek Wilderness. In reality the little guy just had no idea that I was there while he was zipping down the trail at top speed- evidently for the simple joy of it. I started screaming at him when he was twenty feet away and he practically jumped out of his skin and tore off into the bush, leaving me wondering "where's momma?"

I had a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel steal my disposable camera on top of Burroughs Mountain, again in Rainier NP. Evidently the little b@$s+@rd thought it was edible or something. I got into Ta tug-of-war with him, with him latched onto a rock with all four claws and growling at me.

I had some sea lions try to send me for a swim while kayaking in Monterrey Bay back in 1990. I think they were just being playful, but having half a dozen sea lions ramming you does get one's attention.

Same timeframe- I had a Sea Otter climb onto the deck of my kayak, rub its belly, and start sunning itself. Since they are endangered you had to keep more that 50 yards from them, so I started shouting at him "Hey, you're gonna get me in trouble!" and splashed him with my paddle. He gave me a dirty look, then returned to sunning himself.

Tyler Barcelli

Locale: Southeast
Wildlife on 02/26/2013 17:32:27 MST Print View

Wow awesome pictures and stories! Because of my school studies and job, I especially enjoy the bird sightings. I think for me my number one animal sighting was when I was trail-running when I briefly lived in Arizona some years ago. As I stopped to grab a drink I happened to see one of my all time favorite birds/stories of successful human interference. I saw 2 California Condors perched no more than 50 yards away. It was awesome but unfortunately I didn't have a camera.

Here's another one of my local favorite birds. Around where I live the grey color morph isn't as common so this was nice to see. Photo taken on the AT north of NOC.Eastern Screech Owl

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Wildlife on 02/26/2013 18:18:51 MST Print View

Love reading these. Gary, your bear story is great. A few of my favs:

A bobcat and three kittens last year on our way to a jobsite early in the morning. We watched them play in some Junipers for a while before they disappeared. Of course all cameras were in the back of the truck.

Andean condors in Ecuador.

I never tire of pronghorns.

Part of my work is raptor nest surveys and they're been some crazy encounters with that.

I totally fantasize about a mountain lion encounter. Someday, I hope.

I'll add to Tyler's owl shot. Saw-whet:owl

I get pretty excited about plants too, but I'll save that for another day.

Tyler Barcelli

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Wildlife on 02/26/2013 18:30:29 MST Print View

Brendan that's an amazing shot. I'm currently working at a raptor rehab clinic and I remember getting in my first Saw-whet last year. It immediately became one of my favorite birds. I'm partial to owls, they just seem to have so much personality. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to see many amazing raptors up close.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
owls on 02/26/2013 18:36:45 MST Print View

Yeah I love owls. Saw-whets are awesome. They're strangely tame.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
wildlife on 02/26/2013 20:13:35 MST Print View

After a night at a beautiful camp in the Nelson Lakes National Park I was buzzed by a New Zealand falcon. I was completely alone, it was a perfect morning and made for an unforgetable moment.

I have been lucky enough to have many wonderful wildlife experiences during the decade I worked on and off as a freelance photographer and writer. However the encounter was my most memorable whilst hiking.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Wildlife...of the aquatic variety. on 02/26/2013 21:00:19 MST Print View

I know we're talking backpacking...but this happened Tuesday of last week at about 6:45 AM so I have to tell it...

I paddled out at my local before-work surf spot. I'm the first surfer in the water, waves are chest high, and it's looking to be a fun morning.

I notice a good deal of bird activity, pelicans and gulls mostly, about 100 meters out on my 10 o'clock. All diving and squabbling over something in the water.

Three more surfers are now in the water, but they're about 300 meters down the beach from me.

I catch a few waves, noting that the bird commotion hasn't died down yet. Seals or sea lions (too far to tell) have now joined the fray, a few black heads popping up now and then. At first I thought there was a large school of fish everything might have been feeding on, but given the location of the action never changed, I began to suspect there was something dead in the water out there and they were scavenging. I've seen this deep sea fishing.

I catch another wave.

Paddling back out this time, I see a dorsal fin break the water, only 25 meters away on my 1 o'clock. It's coming in my general direction, into more shallow water.

My first instinct is that it's a dolphin; we get a lot of them out with us in the mornings and they get within a few feet of you.

That image is immediately dispelled when I see it turn slightly and present a better profile of the dorsal- which was broad and triangular in shape, not curved like a dolphin's. It then began to accelerate for about 5 meters in a rapid, side-to-side and tightening zigzag.

At this point the panic sets in as I realize I'm in the water with a shark that was likely bigger than me. It's back broke the surface pushing water; within 20 meters, it was clear and close enough to see that it was as wide as my own shoulders, at least. The dorsal appeared about one foot tall. After the brief acceleration on the surface it dove. I saw a 6" tip of a vertical caudal fin break the surface at the end of the dive.

All this happened in a few seconds while I was sitting...I spun my board, laid down, and started stroking like a maniac towards shore. I missed the first wave coming in, but caught the second, riding it all the way into the shallows on my belly. The whole way I'm panicked the thing will overtake me, worried it'll give chase. I ran out of the water like a scared little kid, not letting my guard down until I was sitting on the sand. I doubt it was interested in me, but I was not going to wait around and see.

I watched for another 10-15 minutes, but no more sign of it.

I did end up getting back in the water, but much further down the beach, closer to the other surfers. They hadn't seen it and I figured, honestly, what are the chances? The session was a bit short-lived though; I blew all the paddling strength I had in the dash back into shore and my nerves were a little shot from adrenaline.

About 1.5 months ago, a couple separate white sharks were caught or sighted in shallow water within 2 weeks of each other only a few miles from where I was surfing during this encounter. It might have been a mako, but I'm betting it was a juvenile white shark.

Edited by xnomanx on 02/26/2013 21:04:42 MST.

Daniel Paladino
(dtpaladino) - F - MLife

Locale: Northern Rockies
Owls on 02/26/2013 22:33:34 MST Print View

Brendan - Great saw whet photo! You don't often see them in the wild. I spent a few months volunteering at the Montana Raptor Conservation Center and became close with their half blind northern saw whet education bird. Very mellow birds, until you put a mouse in front of them!

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Wildlife... Of the aquatic variety on 02/26/2013 23:41:57 MST Print View

@ Craig

Spooky story, I know just how you felt... A couple years back I had two close encounters with the landlord within about a month of one another during a couple of long coastal paddles.

The first one was mid channel during the Catalina Classic paddleboard race. A good sized Mako circled me twice while my escort boat watched with amusement from about 200 yards away.

A month later I got bumped by what I believe to be a juvenile white off Goleta during a particularly nasty day. My buddy witnessed the whole thing. We were both completely freaked out but had to continue our paddle since we were a mile or two offshore and the conditions were too rough to turn around or head in. Longest 10 miles of my life. I'm still spooked from that experience.

The next year I did the Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race. Mid crossing, a big gray shadow appeared directly underneath me. I freaked out and was yelling and waving for my escort boat... Turned out to only be a pod of dolphins. Another paddler that year got shadowed by a large tiger shark for a bit off Molokai; glad it wasn't me!

Shark stories fall into not-so great wildlife encounters category.