5 Simple Tips to Handle a Wild Animal Encounter on Vacation

Don’t Run

Running from most animals — including coyotes, feral dogs and bears — is a futile exercise, Ms. Levin said. They’re just faster than you are, and won’t tire out before you do. Plus, running can encourage these animals to chase you.

Alligators may be the only predators you have a shot at beating in a race, although they rarely pursue prey on land. (But watch out if you’re in the water: They ambush. If one latches on you, put up a fight and it might decide to ditch you, Ms. Levin’s experts said.) If you come upon a predator, back away slowly, turned sideways, avoiding eye contact. “The goal is to appear as unthreatening as you know you are,” Ms. Levin said.

No Selfies

This should be obvious, but getting near a wild animal in the name of an Instagram-worthy selfie is setting yourself up for trouble. Earlier this year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear, and in recent years, several tourists in Yellowstone who got too close to bison to snap a selfie were gored or injured by the 1,000- to 2,000-pound animals.

And Please, Don’t Feed the Bears

Or the sea gulls or the coyotes or any animal, really, other than your pets. If you do, they may not leave you alone in the hopes of getting more food. Seagulls, for one, are bold birds and will swipe your sandwich or a slice of pizza right out of your hand. And, in some destinations, feeding these birds may mean a hefty fine ($500 in Ocean City, N.J., for example).

Worse, the more you feed wild animals, the more they grow accustomed to humans, and stick around people instead of foraging for their own food — which leads to people treating them like pests and trying to poison, trap, or kill them. In general, it’s better if wild animals retain a healthy fear of (and distance from) humans in densely populated places.

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