Monday, March 10, 2014

Avoiding, Preparing for, and Surviving Animal Attacks

     Spring is coming. The seasons are starting to change and the weather is starting to warm up. Okay, there is still more snow on the way, and it isn't warming up that much yet. However spring really is on the way, and that means that as it starts to warm up, we will all be heading back into the outdoors. However, while we are getting ready to shake of the lethargy of winter, so to will the animals. So as we go out on the rivers and trails of the fields, mountains and woods, we have to be prepared for encounters with animals.

     Animal attacks in the wild are extremely rare and generally happen when someone is doing something wrong. However, if you are going to be going to be in the great outdoors you should always know what is out there, and the ways you can help keep yourself safe. So we have put together a list of the top five predators that you should be prepared for out in the wilderness.


5. Wolves
     Weighing between sixty and a hundred and twenty pounds, wolves have a fangs up to two and half inches long, and a bite force of 1500lbs to put behind those fangs. However wolves are elusive animals, and many people have never even seen them. While some people thing of wolves as vicious, they are actually more likely to stay away from people, and rarely attack.

     Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare in North America, with there having been only between twenty to thirty attacks between 1900 and 2000. Of all of those, only 3 attacks were fatal, and those were all due to rabies.  However in recent years unprovoked attacks have been on the rise, with two fatal attacks having occurred after 2005.

     So what should you expect with wolves? Wolves work in packs and they stalk their prey, but they don't ambush their prey. This is a good thing for you. This is because you are likely to see them coming, and therefore you can fight back if you are attacked.

     How do you prevent attacks? Make sure you are making noise when you are going through wolf territory. This will make sure that the wolves know you are in the area, and wolves are much more likely to avoid you than attack. If you come across wolves just try and stay out of their way. They are more likely to retreat than to attack in defense.

4. Alligators
     Alligators are next on our list of predators to watch out for. Many of us think about the animals that may be in the woods or around the next corner, but sometimes it is hard to remember that there can also be something lurking under the surface of the water.

     Alligators weigh between seven hundred and a thousand pounds, making them one of the biggest predators on our list. They have a bite force of 2900 lbs, which means that if they get a hold of you, you are not getting away. Add that in with a striking range of five to ten feet, and you have as serious predator that you don't want to mess with.

     Alligators can stay underwater for up to two hours. They can also easily swim within range of shorelines and therefore striking range of those on the shore, often unnoticed because of murky and weedy water. Alligators can also move very quickly, up to 11 miles an hour, though they can't maintain that speed for long. However, the plus side is that alligators are more likely to go for relatively small prey, which means for most of us, that alligator attacks are not too likely.

     In the United States there are an average of four alligator attacks a year, with 356 attacks since 1948. Of those attacks twenty five attacks were fatal. It starts to sound like a lot, except that it is believed that in at least nine case, the humans that were eaten, were already dead before the alligator got to them.

     So it seems that alligator attacks are pretty uncommon, however you should still be prepared so you can avoid attacks altogether. Don't walk through sections of water without first looking for any sign of alligators. If the water is murky and you can see through it very well, ti is a better idea to stay out of the water completely. Keeping further away from shorelines, 10 to 15 feet, will keep you out of the possible attack range of alligators, and make pretty much negate almost all chance of attack.

     So what happens if you are attacked? If you are on land, just run. There is a myth that you should run in a zigzag line to outrun an alligator. However, there isn't much point to this. Alligators have very little endurance, and as long as the alligator misses its first attack, it is likely to simply move on.

     It is more likely however that you will be attacked on the edges of the water or in the water. If you are caught unaware by an alligator in this type of situation it is much less likely that you will be able to evade the alligator. Alligators are at home in the water and they know just how to catch you there.

     Once an alligator grabs on to you, don't bother trying to open its jaws again. Remember that 2900 lb bite force? Exactly, trying to pry it off you won't work. Instead flail, scream, and do anything to to try and confuse the alligator, and possibly alert others for help as well. As soon as you get a chance to drive a finger right into the alligators eye. Unlike the rest of the scaly animal, the eye is sensitive and the surprise and pain of being poked in the eye is likely to result in the alligator letting you go.

     If this doesn't work, then the last ditch effort is to play dead. The alligator may then release you as it gets ready to try and swallow you. You can use this as an opportunity to escape, however it certainly is risky and shouldn't be your first got to response. You best bet is to be aware, prepared and stay out of alligator infested waters, to prevent an attack from ever happening.

3. Cougars
     Like all of the predators on our list so far, attacks by cougars are rare however, with 46 recorded kills by cougars there is a reason they claim the third spot on our list. Cougars, also known as Mountain Lions, are more likely to avoid humans than attack them. However if you are in cat territory you should always be alert and ready for anything.

     Cougars weigh between seventy five to a hundred and sixty five pounds, Cougars are a little bigger than wolves, but with only half the bite, with a bite force of 750lbs. Even so that is nothing to sneeze at. Their most dangerous feature is their range, because they can bound as far as 30 feet. This could leave you face to face with a cat before you even realize they are there.

     When in cat country there are a few things you can do to minimize the possibility of an encounter. Make noise when hiking so the cat knows you are there, and avoid hiking solo. If you have children with you, make sure they stay close and don't go off alone.

     If you do encounter a cougar, you do not want to run away or play dead. Instead you want to act like the bigger creature. Maintain eye contact and stand tall. Try to make yourself look bigger by opening up a coat or raising your arms. Slowly wave your arms to and speak firmly at the cat. You can also throw things if necessary. Above all though, when you do this, make sure you are not cornering the cat. You need to give it space to move and leave the area you are in.

     If the cat does attack you, fight back. In most cases fighting a mountain lion will cause it to back of and leave you alone, and go in search of more docile prey.

2. Black Bears
     We have finally gotten to the bears. We all knew that was coming. Bears are the number one creature that hikers are likely to come across in the wild and find themselves attacked by. Fatal encounters have been rising as humans encroach more and more into bear territory, and 80% of attacks have happened in the last 50 years.

      While called black bears, the fur on black bears can have a wide range of colors from black to cinnamon to silver blue an even white. Black bears weigh between 125lbs and 600lbs and can move up to 35 mph. This means that if one charges you, there is no way you are going to outrun it. On the plus side, of the two types of bears in the United States, black bears are still the better bear to run into. They are typically shy and easily frightened, and so are more likely to run away rather than attack.

     So how do you prevent putting yourself at risk of attack? Like other predators, make noise so they know you are there while you are hiking. When camping make sure that you keep your camp clean and properly dispose of garbage. Also make sure that you don't leave food out in your camp, because the smell may attract the bears as well.

     If you encounter a black bear don't run. If the bear chases you, you are not going to win that race. Instead, avoid eye contact, and talk in a soothing voice, and then back away slowly.

     When a black bear stands up on its hind legs, this is not an aggressive stance, but instead just means that the bear is curious and it is standing to get a better view or smell of you. However if the bear lunges, chomps its jaw, or slaps and paws at the ground, this signals that the bear feels threatened.

     Having bear spray as a back up is another good deterrent to keep with you in case a bear does attack. If the bear attacks use the bear spray. You should also fight back against the bear. More than likely just attacking back is enough to deter the bear and drive it off.

      One thing you should never do though, is climb a tree. Black bears are excellent climbers and if you climb a tree to try and get away from a black bear, then you are likely just going to end up in a tree with the black bear instead.

1. Grizzly Bears
     Also known as Brown Bears, Grizzly Bears are the number one predator on our list. Weighing between three hundred and fifteen hundred pounds, Grizzly Bears are the biggest predator on our list, and the most threatening.

     Like the other predators on our list Grizzly Bears will avoid generally avoid people, and attacks on humans are uncommon. However if a Grizzly attacks, it will attack ferociously, and if you are on the receiving end of the attack, you will be in a very bad spot.

     So what do you do to avoid grizzlies? Again make lots of noise when in their territory so that they know that you are there. A bear may attack if surprised so if they know you are there it can help prevent that. If you do run into them, don't run. Running may just trigger their instinct to chase, and just like black bears, grizzly bears are fast, and you will not be able to out run them.

     The most important thing to look out for though is small grizzly bears. Seventy percent of fatal attacks are a result of a mother bear defending cubs. Cubs start exploring in March and April, and so that is the most likely time that you could run into them. Keep an eye out so you don't come between a mother and her cubs. If you do see a bear cub, calmly but quickly leave the area so you don't aggravate the bear.

     When you encounter a bear you should back away slowly. There are also signs to look for to know how the bear is reacting to you. Wuffing and jaw popping are signs that the bear is uncomfortable, and again backing away is your best option. Turning sideways is another way of saying that the bear is annoyed, because it is making itself look bigger to try and scare you off. In this case it is starting to size you up as well. Making yourself look bigger as well, moving slowly and then backing away.

     The worst posture though that the bear can take is squaring its shoulders at you and pinning its ears back. This is an aggressive stance, and you are going to want your bear spray at this point. If the bear gets within sixty feet of you, you should pepper spray the area in front of you while you back up. This way there will be a cloud of pepper spray that the bear will run into, which will hopefully deter the bear.

     Now what if the bear charges at you anyway. There are couple of things you can do. The first thing is drop something (not food!) on the trail between you and the bear. Often times the bear will stop to investigate what was just dropped on the trail.

     The next thing you can try is holding your ground. If the bear has not yet charged, you should be backing away. Never hold your ground until a charge has begun. Then, holding your ground is likely to stop their charge, even if it is only just a few feet away. If they do stop their charge, they may charge a second or third time, before the grizzly decides that you are not a threat.

     If you are actually attacked, it is generally considered best to play dead. It is quite common for a bear to pick you up, turn you over, and even bite you. However staying perfectly motionless and quite is a method that has been successfully tested multiple times, and has helped people survive grizzly bear attacks. When playing dead make sure that you remain motionless until the bear is gone, so you don't make it curious and cause it to come back and investigate you.

     That is our top five list of animals that you may encounter in the wild. If your going into the outdoors, make sure that you go out prepared and knowledgeable about the predators in the area and what to do if you encounter them. That way you know you can enjoy the outdoors and be prepared for anything.



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