Sunny days in Big Bear Valley and the San Bernardino National Forest attract people to the outdoors. And with the encroachment of humans into the wildnerness there are bound to be encounters with the local wildlife.

Reports of rattlesnake bites in California are on the rise. Warmer weather attracts rattlesnakes. They can be found on hiking trails, on rocks, in yards and in brush. Watch where you step, where you sit and where you put your hands. Be aware.

Hungry bears, deer, raccoons, coyotes, burros and cougars may wander closer to civilization looking for something to eat. While the Big Bear Lake level is down, it’s still an attractive magnet for animals in search of liquid refreshment. Keep food covered. Clean up around bird feeders and garbage cans.

Be aware of your surroundings.

There are several tips you can follow when walking in the wilderness to help keep you and your loved ones safe from forest critters.

• Make noise. Talk loudly, clap your hands, stomp your feet, ring a bell, blow a whistle.

• Avoid hiking off-trail or through thick brush. Staying on marked trails is not only good safety sense, it helps protect the habitat.

• Be on the lookout. Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Look for signs that wild animals have been in the area. Look for tracks, droppings, scratch marks on trees etc. If a rattlesnake slithers onto a trail in front of you, wait for it to pass before continuing on the trail.

• Eliminate strong or sweet odors. Leave food and drinks with strong odors at home. Avoid wearing scented lotions, perfumes or scented deodorants. Bears have a strong sense of smell and will want to check out those smells for the possibility of food.

• Create an itinerary. Keep to it. Give a copy to a friend or family member. Keep your cellphone with you in case of emergency and to call them periodically if you are out in the wilderness for a lengthy period.

• Don’t hike alone. Groups of three or more tend to deter wildlife. Avoid hiking at dawn, dusk and at night unless you are with a large group.

• Stay away from dead animals or carcasses. The animal that killed them may still be in the area guarding its prey. Report sightings of dead animals to the Big Bear Ranger Station.

These tips are not meant to alarm anyone. They are meant to help make your journey into the Big Bear wilderness area safe and secure.

It is fun exploring Big Bear and the San Bernardino National Forest. Being aware of your surroundings can put your mind at ease and make your wilderness adventure a special time in the forest.

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