Olympic provides wonderful opportunities to view animals in their natural habitat. Along with this opportunity come risks and responsibilities for park visitors. If you are fortunate enough to see wildlife during your visit, do not approach, startle, or feed the animal. Feeding or harassing wildlife is strictly prohibited in the park and subject to fines.
All park wildlife are potentially dangerous to humans and can sometimes be unpredictable.
Here are some basic guidelines that may help lessen the threat of danger and will help to keep wildlife wild:
Observe wildlife from a distance. All wildlife is protected in the park. Park regulations require that all visitors maintain a distance of at least 50 yards (half the length of a football field) between themselves and any park wildlife. Do not approach wildlife. If an animal approaches closer than 50 yards, move away to maintain the minimum required distance of separation.
Never feed wild animals. This includes all park animals: birds, squirrels, marmots, deer, elk, otters etc., not just bears. Learning to beg for and/or rely on human foods is extremely harmful for all wild animals, big or small. Be careful not to leave wrappers, crumbs, or other food trash after picnicking or snacking on the trails. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Feeding wildlife can also increase risks to you and other visitors.
Keep children close. Keep children within your immediate sight at all times.
Avoid wildlife during sensitive times.This includes times when animals are mating, nesting, raising young, and during the winter.
Avoid setting up camp on or near game trails.Hike and camp away from obvious animal paths, water sources, and signs like droppings or claw marks.
Store food properly and keep your camp clean. Cook and eat away from your sleeping area. Store your food by locking it in your vehicle or using a bear-proof storage container when in frontcountry campsites. When camping in wilderness areas of the park, all food, garbage, and scented items such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and chapstick, must be stored in bear canisters, hung from park bear wires, or hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk. Bears and most other wildlife are active 24 hours a day; have all food and scented items secured 24 hours a day.
Report Wildlife Encounters
If you experience an attack or near-attack, please report directly to park dispatch at 360-565-3000 or call 911. For all other encounters, please use the forms below.
Bears: Please submit a Black Bear Incident Form if you experience an encounter with a bear, such as a bear approaching you at a distance of less than 50 yards, a bear entering your campsite, or a bear that attempts to take your food.
Cougars: Please submit a Cougar Report Form if you observe or encounter a cougar in the park. Please report ALL cougar observations.
Elk: In the Hoh Rain Forest, the Roosevelt Elk have become habituated to humans. In the spring when the cows calve, they can become aggressive. They will chase people and dogs to keep their young safe. In the fall, when the bulls are in the rut, they can be very aggressive as well. Remember that these are wild, unpredictable animals and visitors should always attempt to stay 50 yards away at all times. Please submit an Elk Incident Form if you experience an encounter with an elk.
Minimize bear encounters by keeping a clean camp and storing food properly.
There have been several instances of aggressive bears in the Olympics. No injuries have been reported, but property was damaged and bears have acted in a threatening manner. If you meet a bear on the trail, give it a wide berth. If a bear comes into camp, make noise to scare the bear away. If it is intent on getting your food or other property, do not risk injury. In the face of repeated encounters, leave the area, with or without your property as appropriate. Notify park staff in all instances of food loss or property damage, or any other threatening acts by bears. Read more on our Food Storage page.
If you see a cougar, you are one of the few to have seen this elusive creature! Do not approach, but face the animal, speak firmly, wave your arms and back away. Cougars, also called mountain lions, range throughout the Olympics. Seldom seen, cougars are large animals, often over 100 pounds, with long rope-like tails. They are usually reddish-tan to gray-brown with black markings on the face and tail tip. Report all cougar sightings to a ranger. The cougar is a potentially dangerous animal, although attacks on humans are rare.
If you see a cougar:
Do not approach, especially one that is near a recent prey-kill or has kittens.
Stop, stay calm and do not turn your back. Do not run.
Face the animal, stand upright, talk calmly and firmly to the cougar and give it a way to escape if you can.
Do all you can to appear larger. For example, open your jacket and raise or wave your arms.
Pick up small children immediately so they won't panic, flee, or make rapid movements.
If the cougar becomes more aggressive, become more aggressive toward it. Convince the animal that you are not prey, but a danger to it.
Fight back if attacked.
During warm weather, black flies, deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Wearing insect repellent, long sleeved shirts and long pants may help. Yellow jackets are common in warm weather, and may nest in rotten logs or in the ground.
There are no poisonous snakes in the Olympics.
Deer are found nearly everywhere in the wilderness and show little fear of humans. Do not feed deer. They can be dangerous, striking out with their hooves or antlers. Feeding deer can also be harmful to their health. They crave the salt found in human urine, feces and food. An inadequately dug cat hole can be a deer's delight, so bury human waste properly. Deer ticks have been found in the north part of the park, but no cases of Lyme disease have been reported.
Mothers of some animals may become dangerous if you disturb their young. Never get between a female bear and her cub. Young animals, such as fawns, may be temporarily left by their mother. Do not be tempted to pick up these young animals, even if you think something is wrong with them. A lingering human scent can lead to abandonment.
Bats and Rabies
Bats are an important and enjoyable part of the Olympic ecosystem, where they are often seen as they feed on insects after dark. However, in the Pacific Northwest approximately 1% of bats are estimated to be infected with rabies and exposure can be fatal.
An exposure to rabies most commonly occurs when a person is bitten by a rabid animal. It can also be transmitted when the saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with a person's mouth, eyes, nose, or a fresh wound.
The risk of acquiring rabies is extremely low, but the disease is fatal if not treated early after exposure, making it vitally important to treat any possible threat of exposure seriously. When a person is exposed to rabies, timely administration of a vaccine known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent infection.
Bats have small sharp teeth and may not leave a visible bite mark on the skin. Any bat encounter or exposure should be immediately reported to a park ranger and the person should consult a health professional.
The following guidelines can help minimize risk of rabies infection:
If you observe a bat with unusual or aggressive behavior or apparent loss of fear of humans, move at least 50 yards from the animal and inform a ranger.
If you are bitten by or possibly exposed to a bat, wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical attention immediately. Any contact with a bat is a concern.
A bat that may have exposed someone to rabies should be captured for testing. Contact a park ranger for assistance. Never handle a bat.
People cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur. To be safe, bats should never be handled.