01 JUL 2022

Lions, Snakes, Bears and Bats, Oh My!

A photo of a yellow Caution Bears in Area sign on a wooden pole.
Knowing what to do when you encounter wildlife is the best way to protect yourself.

Californians are used to experiencing the effects of drought – from wildfire dangers to water shortages – but when bears start showing up in their back yards, they tend to pay even closer attention.

As this year’s drought continues, Solano County residents are encountering wildlife you don’t normally see in urban areas – bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and even bats. And state wildlife experts agree it’s the result of a rapidly worsening drought denying the creatures traditional, natural food and water sources.

“The best advice is to steer clear as there are potential consequences of interacting with wildlife,” said Heather Theaux, director of Emergency Services and Trauma at NorthBay Health.

But for those who enjoy getting outdoors for hiking or other activities, here are some precautions you can take.

Bears

Black bear sightings have increased, particularly because of wildfires that ravished their usual food sources. Bears in the Vacaville and Fairfield areas grabbed media attention recently.

According to state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials, you can stay safe by:

  • Storing garbage properly in closed containers
  • Not leaving leftovers, groceries or animal feed in vehicles
  • If you spot a bear, remain calm. Give it plenty of space and an easy escape route

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnake bites are rare but not unheard of locally, said Tyler Johnson, Injury Prevention and Outreach Technician for NorthBay Health. 

After being bit by a rattlesnake, you should immediately dial 911 and follow instructions, he said. “It is important to remain as calm as possible,” he said, “because it will decrease the spread of the venom through your circulatory system.” He added that, if possible, you should mark the leading edges of the swelling with a pen or marker and document the time. Doing so will help the hospital know the rate of spread and swelling. 

Be sure to remove any rings or other jewelry before swelling begins. And keep the bite site below the level of your heart, if possible, to help slow the spread of venom. 

Also remember:

  • Don’t wait for symptoms to occur. Seek medical advice.
  • Don’t try to suck out the venom.
  • Don’t apply an ice pack.
  • Don’t slash the wound in an attempt to get the venom out.

Mountain Lions 

If you come across a mountain lion, you want to make yourself appear as big as possible and slowly back away. Do not turn your back to the animal. Keep it in sight, advised Johnson. Pick up any small children so they cannot run, because it could trigger the lion to chase. Never corner a mountain lion, always give them room to escape. 

If a lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms slowly and speak in a loud and firm voice. Throw any objects toward but not at the lion, as this may convince it that you are not prey. If the lion attacks you, keep standing and protect your neck and back. 

Bats

Solano County Public Health recently announced that a bat collected on June 2 in Fairfield tested positive for the rabies virus. The virus is commonly seen in raccoons, bats and skunks and can infect humans if they are bitten by rabid animals. If exposed to rabies, individuals can be treated with post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a series of shots that can prevent rabies from developing if received before symptoms present.

"Rabies can be fatal, and we urge residents to be cautious around wild animals," said Dr. Christine Wu, M.D., deputy health officer for the county. 

If you encounter a bat, contact Solano County Sheriff’s Animal Control division at (707) 784-4733 to help trap it for testing.

If you encounter any wildlife and are injured, dial 9-1-1. Learn more about NorthBay Health's Emergency Departments. 

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