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There are lots of animals out there that can harm you, and different methods for keeping safe from each one.
There’s also a ton of bad advice out there about staying safe from those animals.
What do you do if you see black bear on the trail?
Most people would say act big and tall and scare it away, but it’s not that simple. There are times when that’s the wrong approach with a black bear.
What if you act big and scary and then realize her babies are on the trail behind you? Now you- the big scary animal- is between her and the babies.
Now you’re between a rock and hard place, or a bear and a hard place, as the case may be.
All I’m trying to say is that there are so many things to do with so many different animals, that most people just freeze up, get scared, and then display prey animal behavior.
What I’m going to give you in this lesson are a few simple strategies to use for MOST animals you might encounter. This will keep you save in 99.9% of the situations the average person would encounter.
If you live in an area where more dangerous animals are common, I would advise that you find out what to do specifically for that animal. For example, if I lived in Colorado, I would learn up on what to do for mountain lions. In Alaska, it would be large bears and moose.
By the way, if you have specific requests for lessons, just email me. If I get quite a few requests on specific topics, I’ll do a lesson on that to include here in the series.
Animal Encounter Safety
I’m not using the word “wild” for this, because the most common animal most of you will encounter and have trouble with is someone else’s pet dog.
- Carry a stick
I recommend you carry a stick with you anytime you leave the house for a walk, hike, bike, kayak…or anything. A simple walking stick has so many uses, and it’s so easy to carry, it’s a necessity.
Just a few uses for a good walking stick:
- Crutch if you get injured.
- Keeps the hand elevated and less likely to swell. Just be sure to alternate hands.
- To lift up things to look under. I use mine for this all the time when I’m lifting up logs or stuff to look for snakes and salamanders.
- Makes you look bigger to animals.
- Provides a defense method to increase the distance between you and an animal.
- As a last resort, you can use it as a weapon against man or beast.
Examples of good walking sticks:
- Any stick you find that comes to chest height. If you find a good one, and don’t want to keep it, trail etiquette says to leave it at the trailhead sign for someone else to use when you’re done.
- A nice wooden staff. I frequently use a nice one my dad bought me as a gift. He carved images of many of my adventures into it.
- Collapsible hiking stick. I use these when I’m mountaineering. I’m partial to Leki brand, as mine have lasted decades, including use on expeditions to several of the tallest mountains in the world.
- Survival staff. I recently started using one of these after a client gave me several in exchange for filming several videos for him to use to advertise them.
- Move away from the animal
Like I learned in years of martial arts training, the first thing to do is try to remove yourself from the situation. Same with animals.
- Do not run.
- Do not turn your back to them.
- Watch where you’re moving so you don’t trip and fall.
- Keep eye contact with the animal as much as possible.
- Simply move away from the animal to a place of safety or distance as purposeful as possible.
- 3. Act as big as possible
- Wave your arms.
- Use your clothes and wave them.
- Wave your stick
- Take your hat off and wave it.
- Make a lot of noise
- Scream and yell.
- Bang on equipment.
- Tap your stick on the ground, trees, and rocks.
- Use a whistle or air horn if you have one.
Aside from scaring the animal away, another great thing about making a lot of noise is that it will often attract help.
If despite everything else I suggested, the animal charges or attacks, fight back with everything you have.
Even a small pet dog can injure you severely if you don’t fight back. An even smaller mammal like a raccoon could have rabies.
At this point, the animal is either too challenged to leave you alone for some reason (like babies nearby), there’s something wrong with it (like rabies), or it’s a predator and sees you as a food source it’s not willing to give up.
If an animal attacks, no matter what it is or how small it is, your life is now in danger. You have to fight back.
Real Life Case Study: Me and My Little Girl were Attacked by a Dog at our House
This actually happened quite recently.
My daughter was at the rabbit hutch feeding the rabbits when a neighbor’s dog ran up and attacked her. It’s a dog that’s caused problems before, so I’ve taught her many times what to do.
By the time I heard her screaming, he had bitten her several times and was chasing her. She did exactly what most people do and what I train others (and her!) not to do.
She screamed, turned around, and ran.
This made the dog not fear her, not see her as a predator, dangerous, or alpha animal, and he attacked. By the time I got to her, about 100 yards from the house, he had tripped her up running, and she was on the ground screaming while he nipped at her.
I grabbed a stick that always sits by the front door and ran out there.
Big screaming burly man enters the picture swinging a hurt stick, and the dog turned and ran away.
He’s a smallish dog and wouldn’t have bothered her much if she’d practiced my core principles shown above. As a matter of fact, there was a stick by the rabbit hutch that she completely forgot to grab for instead of running.
Overall, we got out if with just a few scratches and small bites, but with a larger dog or a coyote, the most common animals around my farm, it could’ve been worse.
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