Two types of bear roam the Rockies – black bear and grizzly – and you don’t want to meet either. They’re not hugely common and risks are pretty low on heavily tramped trails, but if you’re camping or walking it’s still essential to be vigilant, obey basic rules, know the difference between a black bear and a grizzly (the latter are bigger and have a humped neck) and how to avoid dangerous encounters, and understand what to do if confronted or attacked. Popular misconceptions about bears abound – that they can’t climb trees, for example (they can, and very quickly) – so it’s worth picking up the park service’s pamphlet You are in Bear Country, which cuts through the confusion and advises on how to behave to avoid attacks. Cardinal rules include storing food and rubbish properly, making sure bears know you’re there, not approaching or feeding them, and, if you meet one, not screaming or running away.
Other wild animals can also be dangerous, and while you would be unlucky to encounter cougars, which are relatively rare, the chances of meeting elk are much higher. Generally, these are benign creatures, often seen grazing at roadsides, but can become aggressive if approached or if they are with young; don’t clamber out of your car, or cross the highway, to poke a camera in their faces.