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As the snow subsides and warmer days finally arrive, almost all species begin to wake from a dazed and blurry state of wintry seclusion. While humans gaze at flowers forcing their way up through frosty mounds of earth, wildlife ravenously munches away at almost any new growth they can find. Lean, and hungry from a long winter, their bodies are queued to replenish, renew and reproduce.  Everyone seems a bit more eager in spring- albeit for different reasons. 

Just as we might be taking in the brisk spring air of the Sawtooth Mountains, we can be an unwelcome intrusion to the Idaho wildlife that are busy and focused on their tasks at hand. A temporary encounter with a chatty pine squirrel or a cranky crow is expected. But many visitors to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), may be unaccustomed to encountering species best not provoked or startled. Here are some helpful guidelines when in the presence of Sawtooth’s most elite, prestigious, and slightly intimidating creatures. 


How to stay safe

When hiking- Be aware of your surroundings. Look for tracks or droppings. Make noise when hiking- bear bells are great.

If approached by a bear remain calm and do not run. This can trigger a prey instinct in the animal. Make yourself appear bigger while backing away slowly. Talk to the bear in a calm voice. 

Consider purchasing bear spray or air horns.

Do not approach bears if you see them off in the distance. Use binoculars to observe.


How to keep bears safe from humans

Pack and store all food in bear-resistant canisters when recreating.

Cook food and wash dishes downwind from campsites if possible. 

Keep birdseed and pet food picked up.


Mountain lions

How to stay safe

Do not run. This can trigger a prey instinct in the animal.

If approached by a mountain lion make yourself appear bigger and make noise while backing away slowly. Maintain eye contact and yell loudly- but do not scream. 

Consider purchasing bear spray or air horns. 

How to keep mountain lions safe from humans

Once these animals begin to rely on human habitats it can become extremely dangerous for them and people.

Make sure garbage is not accessible- same for pet food and pets!

Keep hiding places like decks blocked off. 

Consider installing motion sensors with lights. 


Be aware of your surroundings- look for tracks and droppings.

If approached do not run or turn your back. Retreat slowly and maintain eye contact. If you are with another person, place yourself back-to-back if there is more than one wolf.

Use air horns and make noise. 

Climb a tree if necessary.


New babies!

Leave the scene of wolf pups, and bear and mountain lion cubs as cautiously and calmly as possible. 

Ungulates- elk, deer, and moose, can also charge if threatened. They will often hide their young nearby, so leave babies you find alone. 


While almost all wildlife prefers to avoid humans, do not engage with animals that appear to be friendly, curious, or looking for food. 


Sightings can be reported to the Idaho Fish and Game Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359.

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