February 7, 2016

What to do in a Wildlife Encounter

From snakes to wild cats to bears, it’s almost a certainty that backpackers and hikers will eventually encounter wildlife during their travels. Hunting, camping, and trekking can introduce unwanted encounter with wild animals and depending on how prepared you are, these animals, no matter how small they are, can either spoil your trip or make it horribly memorable. Although these animals can cause fear and anxiousness, this shouldn’t stop you from trekking a new trail. With safety procedures and proper preparations, having the sense of what not’s and needs to be done makes a difference and can be a total lifesaver.  But what exactly are you supposed to do when you’re facing this exact situation and encounter such animals?

Snake-In-Sambisa-ForestPhoto source: http://www.dopegist.com

Below are some important tips you need to know before you proceed with your itinerary.

  1. Snakes

If you came across any snake when hiking or camping, never provoke it, pick it up or poke it. Most of the snakes only strike when they think they are cornered and are threatened. If the snake is about meters away from you, stop and freeze from where you stand, and allow the snake to look for an escape route. If you are very close to the snake or have stepped on it, move away quickly and keep moving back. Observe the snake. If the snake continues to slither across the grass, it will likely move away. If the snake flattens its neck forming a hood and rears up like a cobra, it is likely aggressive and likely to strike. You should act with caution. If you are cornered, try throwing rocks or sticks in the snake’s direction. Don’t try to hit the snake – it will provoke an attack. Instead, throw rocks to drive the snake to an obvious exit.

     2. Bears

Person-and-approaching-bear-photo-copyright-Jake-Bortsch-688-pxPhoto source: http://www.nps.gov

Grizzly Bears is a type of bear that makes unprovoked attacks. Frequently, attacks from grizzly bears are the result of being surprised. If you startle a grizzly bear and it starts to behave aggressively towards you, drop to the ground and consider playing dead. Lay on your stomach with your hands clasp behind your neck. Use your elbows and toes to avoid being rolled over. If the bear rolls you over, keep rolling on the ground until you land back on your stomach. Remain still and try not to struggle or scream. The bear may paw or even gnaw you a bit, but it will likely to leave after it feels you’re no threat. Do not move until you are absolutely sure the bear has left. If you are stalked by a grizzly bear in a predatory situation, do not play dead. Stand your ground and start to act aggressively – stomp your feet and shout. Make yourself as big as possible and try to wave a stick or whatever you have in the air.

Black bears are known to engage in predatory attacks. If the bear is approaching in an aggressive manner, try to fight off an attacking black bear. In the case of aggression, use pepper spray, stones, branches or whatever is available to fight off an attack. If the attack escalates and the bear physically contacts you, fight back with anything that is available to you. Use your best tactical flashlight for defense if you have any and try to hit the bear with it.  Do not play dead. Also, you cannot outrun a bear so don’t even try. Stay together if you are in a group. Numbers will intimidate a bear.

      3Big Cats

Mountain lions and cougars are aggressive predators and will attack humans if provoked. However, they are generally smaller than humans and can be scared away. Use your voice to scare it away – start yelling, growling or screaming. Make yourself big and menacing as possible. As with the above and other animals, your best option is to make a detour if they haven’t seen you yet.

Please remember that wildlife encounter shouldn’t be considered typical. You may have to take further actions in your particular circumstances that are not covered below especially if the situation gets out of control. Being aware and watchful of your surroundings is the first step to effective wildlife safety. You should always have the best tactical flashlight with you wherever you go to keep yourself from bumping into wild animals in the dark and for additional defense.

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