If you’re on an adventure travel mission, chances are, you’ll sometimes get off the road – and encounter animals. In fact, animals may wander into main roads or even highways sometimes; so what are some of the most frequent animal encounters in South America, and what to do about it?
Cattle and sheep
Even when you’re on a wonderfully twisty mountain road in the Andes, going too fast is rarely a good idea. That’s because at any moment, there might be a herd of cattle, sheep, or llamas on the road. Local shepherds sometimes move their animals using main roads, and they’re not interested in the fact that fast-moving vehicles might not be able to brake quickly enough. Be careful on blind corners. If you’re on a rural road or off-road track, turn off your engine and let the animals pass without frightening them.
Homeless, stray dogs are everywhere in South America, and they love chasing motorcycles. Mostly, just speeding up is enough; there’s no need to try and kick at the barking dogs – they’ll give up if you just ride away. I was, however, bitten by a stray dog on the street somewhere in Peru. Be careful with strays; you may want to feed them as they’re often skinny and clearly hungry, but do it safely by putting the food on the ground instead of straight out of your hand, and never approach dogs that seem to be growling, snarling, or in fear.
Snakes and Other Wildlife
If you’re headed for the Amazon region and are planning to do a jungle hike or trek, mind the snakes and the alligators. Mostly, they’ll shy away from noise and won’t attack unless you actually step on them; during most organized jungle treks, malaria and dengue-fever carrying mosquitoes are much more of a concern than snakes or other slimy reptiles. Carry insect repellent and malaria tabs just in case.
Some Andean regions may have pumas (mountain lions) and bears, but you have to get pretty remote for these animals to be a concern. Most wild-camping in the Andes is perfectly safe, and a curious llama is more likely to visit your campsite than a man-eating puma.