California workers in field assignments and/or remote locations sometimes encounter deer, mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, or bears while on the job. To protect yourself and stay safe in the event of a wildlife encounter, understand animal behavior and learn how to respond appropriately.

What to do and not do

Wild animals generally avoid human contact, but if you do see an animal in the wild, maintain your distance. Don’t attempt to feed, catch,or pet a wild animal. Never approach wildlife babies or animal mothers with their babies; the mother’s protective response can be very fierce. Report injured or aggressive animals to authorities; don’t attempt to give aid to injured wildlife. If an injured animal approaches you, move slowly away.

Mountain lion sightings are rare, but they have been known to attack humans. If you do encounter a mountain lion, don’t run. Stay calm and hold your position or back away slowly. Convince the animal that you’re not prey and that you might be dangerous. Face the lion and try to appear as large as possible by standing upright and raising your arms. If the lion acts aggressively, wave your arms and shout. Grab a stick or throw objects at the lion. If you are attacked, fight back.

Bears try to avoid people, but if you do see one, make as much noise as possible. Do not corner a bear. If the bear feels trapped, it may act aggressively. To avoid attracting hungry animals don’t carry food products, don’t keep food near you, and don’t leave food in your opened vehicle.

Normally, coyotes and deer are not a threat to humans. Avoid them and do not feed them. When driving, watch for deer crossing signs. Adjust your speed according to the distance you can see up the road. If you see one deer cross the road, wait for others because they often travel together. If you cannot avoid a deer or other animal on the road, it’s better to hit it rather than risk skidding off of the road and into a ditch or swerving into another vehicle or tree.

Potential rabies exposure

Wildlife encounters can expose you to rabies, a disease that causes brain swelling and death. Because the virus that causes the disease is present in animal saliva, a bite or even a lick from an infected animal can be serious. Infected animals may not show the symptoms of rabies such as frothing at the mouth. They may act aggressive or out of character, such as a nocturnal animal being active during the day.

Avoiding animals is the best prevention for rabies, but if you are bitten, scratched, or licked by a wild animal, wash the area with soap and water immediately. If it is possible and safe to do so, try to trap the animal for testing. Seek medical treatment right away. If you are in frequent contact with wild animals, there are vaccines available to prevent rabies.

Be careful with pepper spray

As a last means of defense against aggressive animals, pepper spray can be used. To be effective, it must be sprayed directly into the animal’s face. However, a breeze could blow the spray away or into your face. If you do decide to use pepper spray, get training to use it properly and safely.

For safety, keep your distance and keep your cool when encountering wild animals.