Life Among the Wild: Lions, Rattlesnakes, and Bears, Oh My!

Nature. It's us and it's them. Together, the natural world and all that resides within it, moves in an entangled collaborative oneness. If. You. Can. Realize. It. We are a part of nature, not apart from nature. Indigenous cultures have always known this. In ancient times that's all there was, nature.  Everything in nature is sacred. Everything in nature teaches. The wolf teaches how a community should behave.  When a cub is orphaned other wolves take it in as its own. The pack functions and thrives on teamwork. Apply that concept to us humans. What can we learn? What will we do with that understanding learned from the wild side?    

At Indigenous Roots we live among and with the wild. Remoteness. Silence. Beauty. Serenity. Here the black bear exists, here the coyote runs, here a mountain lion rests, here a rattlesnake survives, here an elk calls out to its young, all because here are their homes. There is more of the wild.  Ponderosa pines rise up seamlessly connecting to the sky. Gamble Oak and Mountain Mahogany are deeply rooted in the soil.  The milky quartz lays gently upon the earth holding wisdom beyond human understanding. All are breathing as one. All sway when the wind blows, all reach out as the rain pours, all feel the healing touch of the sun. Together. This is a community.  

Part of what we teach at Indigenous Roots is living among and with all things in the natural world as a community. Besides a spiritual  connection aspect, we take many preventative steps such as locating our outdoor kitchen area away from our living space. What are the best ways to reduce the risk of black bear or mountain lion encounters? Seeing a black bear can be a thrilling experience and have a spiritual meaning. The presence of a bear is not necessarily a problem or a threat. They are a part of the natural world just as much as we are and deserve respect.  Black bears would just as soon avoid people, but bears that learn to associate humans with food begin to lose their natural fear of people. A mother bear with cubs may be aggressive if she feels you are a threat to her cubs. You will not encounter grizzly bears at Indigenous Roots. Black bears do live here. 

Black Bear

Here are some 'Be Bear Aware' safety tips from Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife to help keep them and you safe. 

 Never feed wildlife. * Keep a clean camp site and clean up thoroughly after every meal. * After grilling, allow the fire to continue until food scraps and grease are burned completely off the grill. * Do not eat in your tent or keep food in your tent. * Do not leave pet food outside for a long period of time.  Any uneaten pet food should also be stored in a secure container. *  Store unused food and garbage in secure containers out of the reach of bears and away from your sleeping area. *  Never hike alone. * Keep children close to you. * Do not approach the bear. * Make noise while hiking. * If you come in close contact with a bear, talk to it firmly and make yourself look as large as possible. * Pick up small children. Hold the hands of older children. You do not want them to panic and run. * Back away slowly, but do not run. * Teach children about bear safety. 

Indigenous roots provides you with an air horn while hiking to use to scare a bear away. One is included in each tipi (lodge) as well. We hike in groups. The staff carries a flash/bang flare gun.and Bear Spray.  Another useful deterrent is to blast the bear in the face with water. A large toy water gun such as the ‘Super Soaker’ can also be useful, especially when filled with vinegar diluted with water. If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear's face and muzzle.

Mountain Lion

It is extremely rare to see a mountain lion, They are an important part of the ecosystem. Its presence does not establish a problem or a threat. They are wild and deserve respect. They are most active at dusk and dawn. Take the following precautions in mountain lion country. Hike close to each other in groups. Be noisy. Keep children next to you. Do not approach the mountain lion. Never feed wildlife. If you see one, announce it to the group you are with and point in the direction you see it. That way all can turn to face it. 

if you do come in close contact here is what to do. Stand upright, raise arms and look big. Stop, back away slowly without turning your back towards it. Pick up small children. Hold the hand of older children. You do not want children to  panic and run. DO NOT RUN! Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. If it acts aggressive, wave your arms, shout, throw things at it without crouching down, wave your jacket at it, fight back if it attacks (remain standing and keep getting  back up if you fall). 


A rattlesnake's instinct is to protect itself. The same is true of humans in known rattle snake territory. How do we do that, for them and for us? Rattlesnakes eat mice, small birds, frogs, rats, and some insects. They do not stalk humans. They are cold blooded which means they need external sources of heat such as sunny locations. Rocks hold heat which is a great place to be if you are a snake. Sometimes they will seek out clumps of grass or other areas to cool down in.  Snakes 'hear' by sensing vibrations on the ground and through sound wave vibrations. They have no external ears, but do have inner ear structures. Snakes use their tongues to smell. As it flicks its tongue it is literally tasting the air. The prongs of the forked tongue fit perfectly into the two holes in the Jacobson's organ which is located in the roof of its mouth. The organ sends sensory information to the brain which interprets the smells.

Poisonous venom is its key defense. Human's key defense in rattlesnake prone areas is being wary, certain, and safe. How?  Walk with a deliberate heavy step to send out those vibrations snakes need to know you are nearby. Watch where you are about to step. They will try to avoid you. They will not seek you out. But, you could surprise one. They mostly stay hidden, out of danger by resting on the ground under brush, in nooks of rocks, in a pile of wood, in thick grass, or perhaps it is moving from one spot to another. 

1. Dress appropriately: Most bites occur on the hands, feet, and ankles. Besides looking before you reach for something, gear up with ankle high closed toe/heel hiking boots made of Cordura nylon or leather.  Couple those hiking boots with snake gaiters. They provide protection from the ankle to the knee. Indigenous Roots provides snake proof gaiters for children and adults. 

2. Never hike alone!  Stick to well used trails. Keep alert as you hike, walk, and climb. Do not wander off into tall grass, underbrush and weeds where rattlesnakes may be. 

3. Don't stick your hands down holes, under rocks and ledges or even into brush. Carry a sturdy stick, to help prevent using your hands in areas where snakes may be. Probe brush and undergrowth a bit with your stick before you walk on or near them. That way if a snake is present it has time to get away. 

4. Don't sit down on tree stumps, rocks, or logs without first checking the area including inside the log. Step on and not over when you need to cross logs and rocks.

5. Use a flashlight at night at all times by lighting up the area around you to check for wildlife, including snakes. Indigenous Roots provides solar lights for the pathway to the bathroom and a headlamp for each person. Parents should accompany their children at night for whatever the reason to be out. Always keep the door zipped up in the bathroom shelter. 

6. Always check your tipi (lodge) each time you go in it for the possibility a snake sought a warm spot or nook to curl up in. At Indigenous Roots, we follow this protocol: remove all bedding every morning, shake it out well, place it in the secure storage area. Just before going to bed get your bedding from storage, shake it out, inspect tipi, place bedding down and hop in bed. 

7.. If you see a rattlesnake including baby ones, don't panic. Give it a lot of space. You can easily walk around it without frightening it.  Back slowly away out of its striking distance (10 ft is a good distance). As you walk way around it be alert for other snakes in the same area. Do not bother it in any way. Period. Just get away. It is just trying to live. It will not chase you.  But, if it feels threatened it could strike and bite you. 

Striking position is when the body is coiled, head is raised and sometimes it will rattle (but not always).  Its strike is faster than the human eye can track. Teach children the important precautions as well. 

6. If you are bitten, move out of its striking distance so it does not strike again. Look around, are there other snakes in the area? Usually they are solitary unless you have happened upon a den. It will be hard, but do not panic! Dashing about moves the venom through your body faster. 

7. Keep the bite area lower than the heart. It is best if you are carried out. Of course a  hospital visit is a must for anti-venom. At Indigenous Roots the Stonewall Fire Department is who would respond.  Our protocol is to call 911.  Trinidad's hospital is 30 minutes away.  We have a Wilderness First Responder on staff. 

Well, that is a lot of information to take in! Just know that we at Indigenous Roots are well versed in living with wildlife, after all it is a Native American cultural aspect. We will educate you on how to live among and with wildlife that keeps you and them safe.  No one can really predict what a wild animal might do, but taking precautions and being educated about wildlife potential hazards is just plain smart. 

At Indigenous Roots learn the Native American cultural values of respect for all things in nature. Discover how ancient communities included nature and humans. As in ancient times, we too will be a part of the wild community.  






Pamela Good Wind

I am the education director at Indigenous Roots LLC in Weston, CO.