Odds are that you already know that the average human can’t outrun the animals on this list. More than likely, you’ve heard from other hunters or hikers what you should do in case of an encounter. You’ve already been told how mind-blowingly fast a 1,000-pound grizzly, with its winter weight no less, can be. Yet there’s a difference between hearing and seeing it for yourself. Telling you that a brown bear can run over 30 miles per hour is simply giving you a number. Showing you a bear running alongside a car, however, is pretty enlightening.

Here is our list of 10 common North American animals faster than the average human. Remember, many large predators (bears, wolves, mountain lions) may instinctively chase you if you decide to run. In these cases, facing them head on or playing dead may be the most advisable choice. Herbivores generally have no desire to pursue you and will give up the chase once you are a fair distance away. They only want you out of their space.

However, outrunning them in those first few crucial seconds may be more difficult than expected.

For comparison’s sake, the average human running speed is around 15 to 18 mph (which might more sensibly be called a sprinting speed—when’s the last time you saw someone run 15 mph on a treadmill for longer than two minutes?).

Usain Bolt, who is considered be the fastest human on the planet, can maintain a maximum speed of 28 mph for short distances. These animals blow us out of the park.

1. Brown bear

Maximum speed: 30 mph to 40 mph


2. Black bear

Maximum speed: 30 mph to 35 mph

3. Moose

Maximum speed: 30 mph to 35 mph

4. Elk

Maximum speed: 45 mph

5. Deer

Maximum speed for mule deer: 35 mph to 45 mph

Maximum speed for whitetail: 47 mph

6. Mountain Lion

Maximum speed (ambush speed): 40 to 50 mph

7. Wolf

Maximum speed: 31 to 37 mph

8. Caribou

Maximum speed: 40 mph

Note: trailing wildlife at such a close distance is not recommended since it can cause stress to the animals.

9. Bison

Maximum speed: 30 mph to 40 mph

10. Bald eagle

Average gliding speed: 35 mph to 40 mph

Maximum dive speed: as fast as 100 mph

The bald eagle may be an unfair selection for this list since it is capable of flight, but it just goes to show, you can’t outrun freedom.

Image from Peter Stevens on the flickr Creative Commons

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