Wildlife Safety

Parks are home to wildlife - humans are just visitors.

Part of the experience of visiting areas such as Little River Canyon National Preserve is to view various types of wildlife in their natural habitat. It is important, however, to remember that the park is their home, and humans (and pets) are just visitors. For their safety and yours, please follow these basic guidelines:
  • Never approach the wildlife - respect their space and keep a safe distance between you and the wildlife for their safety and yours.
  • Never feed the wildlife - by feeding animals, they can become dependent on human food, which can lead to dangerous situations between humans and animals. Don't leave food unattended and clean up all food scraps - if garbage cans are full, don't leave trash on the ground, take it home or find another garbage can.
  • Report sick or injured wildlife to the park at (256) 845-9605 - don't try to help them on your own, sick or injured animals may attack out of fear.
  • Never remove wildlife from the park.
  • Keeps pets on a 6 foot / 2 meter leash to protect them and the local wildlife.
  • Stay on designated trails and roads - it is easier to see and avoid unwanted encounters.
  • Watch your step to avoid stepping on small animals like snakes - snakes seldom strike unless stepped on or bothered and can be camoflaged in leaves and other debris.
  • Don't put your hands where you can't see them.

Find infomation below on some of the most common potentially harmful animals to be aware of while at Little River Canyon National Preserve.

A bear in the woods looking towards the viewer.
A black bear in a small rock cavern found in Little River Canyon.


Black Bear

Black bears, a protected species in Alabama, have been making a return to the state, moving from northwest Georgia into northeast Alabama, including Little River Canyon National Preserve. While they are not often seen, they are most certainly present. While a confrontation with a bear is vary rare, it can occur. What should you do if you see a bear?

If you see a bear:

  • Remain watchful.
  • Do not approach it.
  • Do not allow the bear to approach you.
  • If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (it stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.), you are too close.
  • Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear, such as running towards you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don't run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Increase the distance between you and the bear - the bear will probably do the same.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing or paw swatting:

  • Change your direction.
  • If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground.
  • If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it.
  • Act aggressively to intimidate the bear.
  • Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, hold your arms above your head, move to higher ground, etc.). Place small children on your shoulders to protect them and make yourself look bigger.
  • Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear.
  • Use a deterrent such as a stout stick or hiking pole.
  • Don't run and don't turn away from the bear.
  • Don't leave food for the bear - this encourages further problems.

If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you are physically attacked:

  • Seperate yourself from the food.
  • Slowly back away.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, the bear may consider you a threat or as prey:

  • Do not try to climb a tree - black bears are excellent climbers!
  • Fight back aggressively with any available object!
  • Do NOT play dead!

Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately - call (256) 845-9605. Above all, keep your distance from bears!

Three individual images of the venomous snakes found at Little River Canyon - the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the timber rattlesnake
The venomous snakes found at Little River Canyon - the Copperhead (left), the Cottonmouth (center), and the Timber Rattlesnake (right).

Copperhead - NPS
Cottonmouth - NPS / Matt Switzer
Timber Rattlesnake - NPS

Venomous Snakes of Little River Canyon

While there are many different types of snakes found at Little River Canyon National Preserve, only three are venomous - the Copperhead, the Cottonmouth, and the Timber Rattlesnake. These snakes live in many of the areas of the park we enjoy - the trails, the river banks, and rocky areas - and are an essential part of the natural ecosystem and an important component in the natural food chain. Please remember that snakes are protected at Little River Canyon National Preserve - it is illegal to harm them!

Venomous or Not?

There are many non-venomous snakes which look very similar to venomous snakes at Little River Canyon. Copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes share three characteristics that can quickly distinguish them from other non-venomous snakes.
  • Broad, flattened, arrow-shaped heads with narrow necks (non-venomous snakes have long, slender heads).
  • Elliptical shaped eyes similar to a cat's eyes (non-venomous snakes have round eyes).
  • Sensory pits located near the nostrils.
The National Park Service does not encourage visitors to get close enough to a snake to try to determine whether it is venomous or not, and wildlife should not be handled regardless. If you see a snake, leave it alone and give it space - DO NOT HARM THE SNAKE!

For more information on these snakes:

Visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources pages by clicking on the snake name below.

How to Avoid Being Bitten:

  • Stay on designated walking trails and roads.
  • Do not place your hands or feet where you can not see.
  • Keep all pets on a leash.
  • If you see a snake, do not provoke it or try to pick it up - just avoid it.
  • If a snake is blocking a trail, patiently wait for it to fully cross ahead of you before you walk by. Stepping near or over the snake may provoke aggression.

First Aid for a Snake Bite:

  • Get away from the snake. Copperheads, cottonmouths, and timber rattlesnakes can strike at a distance equal to about half their body length and can bite more than once. Do NOT attempt to kill or capture the snake.
  • Stay calm and try not to panic - activity can increase the venom absorption.
  • Look for signs of envenomation - severe burning pain at the site of the bite, swelling beginning within about five minutes of getting bitten and progressing up the limb, and discoloration and blood-filled blisters developing in 6 to 48 hours. In at least 25% of bites, no venom is injected.
  • Send someone for help - call 9-1-1
  • Try to keep the affected limb lowered below the victims heart.
  • Seek medical help even if there is no immediate reaction - all bites can cause infection and should be treated by a physician.
  • DO NOT use a tourniquet, which can cause severe damage if wound too tight.
  • DO NOT use cold or ice - it does not affect the venom and can damage skin tissues.
  • DO NOT attempt to cut the bite or suck out the venom - cutting can damage blood vessels and nerves.
  • DO NOT consume alcoholic beverages - they can dilate blood vessels and compound shock.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graphic on how to identify the three ticks commonly found in Alabama in all stages of their life cycle.
Common ticks found at Little River Canyon National Preserve; Blacklegged Tick (top), Lone Star Tick (middle), Dog Tick (bottom).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass and shrubs where they will wait to attach to a passing host. Physical contact is the only method of transportation for ticks - they do not jump or fly, although they may drop from their perch and fall onto a passing host.

Ticks look for warm, moist areas of the body, such as in and around the hair, ears, under the arms, inside the belly button, around the waist, between the legs, and the back of the knees.

Three types of ticks are commonly found at Little River Canyon - the Black-legged Tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the American Dog Tick. These ticks have the potential to transmit diseases such as Spotted fever and Lyme disease. Click here to learn more about Ticks and Tick-borne Illnesses in Alabama.

Prevention Tips:

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and boots or sturdy shoes. Ticks are easier to detect on light-colored clothing.
  • Apply insect repellent primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin - always follow label instructions on how to apply.
  • Walk in the center of trails so grasses and shrubs do not brush against you. Individuals who sit on the ground or disturb leaf litter on the forest floor may encounter ticks.
  • Check yourself, your children, and other family members every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease organisms until they have been attached for four hours or more. If your pets spend time outdoors, check them for ticks too.
  • Take a hot shower immediately after coming in from being outdoors.
  • Click here for more prevention guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Removing Ticks:

  • If a tick is on clothing, use masking or duct tape to remove.
  • The recommended way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently but firmly pull it straight out.
  • Do not remove ticks with bare hands.
  • To dispose of the tick, flush it down the toilet.
  • Wash the area around the bite thoroughly with soap and water, then apply antiseptic to the bite.
  • If you have an unexplained illness with fever, contact a physician. Be sure to tell the physician if you have been in outdoor areas where ticks were present.
  • Click here for more information from the Alabama Department of Public Health on how to remove a tick.

Last updated: July 31, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

4322 Little River Trail NE Ste 100
Fort Payne, AL 35967


256 845-9605 x201
Main phone number for Little River Canyon National Preserve.

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