Knowing how to react to an attacking animal – wild or domestic – could make the difference between life and death: yours.
Although social media abounds with videos of proud humans showing off a “pet” wild animal trained to amuse the audience, don’t be fooled. Visitors to Yosemite National Park in Wyoming love to seat THEIR CHILDREN on the backs of bison for the photo op of a lifetime, apparently oblivious to the clear and present danger these enormous creatures pose.
There is a very good reason these animals are called wild: even the calmest, sweetest-tempered family-friendly bear or ferret can turn into the savage beast it was born to be, under the proper triggering circumstances.
Animals that have grown up in the wild act out of instinct. Hunger is a powerful motivator, as is crossing a territorial boundary or threatening the young ‘uns. To many predators, we humans look like prey. This explains the many victims of extremely unforeseen circumstances.
Only last June (2018), a Florida woman went missing. Shizuka Matsuki (age 47) from Plantation was found dead. Her two dogs had remained on the scene beside her lifeless remains after a 12-foot ALLIGATOR bit her. We know this because lab testing on the contents of the gator’s stomach proved a match to the victim’s arm. “identified by a tattoo.”
At the other end of the Northern Hemisphere, in July 2018, Aaron Gibbons (31) was killed after a POLAR BEAR mauled him. Gibbons and his three young children were hunting Arctic tern eggs (a human delicacy) on Sentry Island on the western shore of Hudson Bay in Nunavut, near the small town of Arviat. Gordy Kidlapik, who directs a hunters and trappers association in Arviat, said that “the bear started to stalk or charge one of his children. He told his children to run back to the boat and put himself between his children and the bear.” The children called for help on a CB radio. Their father was pronounced dead on the scene.
Finally, for those readers who are thinking, “There are no alligators or polar bears where I live – so no worries,” think again. It only took the family dog – a pit bull – 15 minutes to attack and kill Angela Smith (55) from Southeast D.C. in the nation’s capital. Her husband Robert Frazier was dazed but had a possible explanation:
“They was really buddies. What I’m thinking is, she might have taken some food, something like that, from him. And he’s really aggressive like that. Maybe, just maybe, I think he reacted that way.”
The bottom line is this: don’t be fooled into complacency and trust by YouTube clips like this one that shows a fleshy woman making nice with her pet alligator. It’s scary just looking at it.
There are known ways to fend off animal attacks. First and foremost, practice avoidance. If you see a wild animal, keep your distance.
Understand what wild animals you might encounter in the local area, whether you live there or are just visiting. Cougar attacks are not at all uncommon in Colorado, for example. Then learn how best to defend yourself from them.
Here are some basic tips on how not to attract wildlife:
1. Whether camping in the woods or at home, keep trash and garbage picked up and stored in secured receptacles until they can be emptied.
2. When spending long periods of time or overnighting it outdoors, wash up the dishes after meals and seal left-overs in airtight containers so animals don’t follow the aroma, Yogi and Boo-Boo Bear-style.
3. Never take food inside your tent. Why invite trouble? For that matter, don’t bring the clothes you wore while cooking into the tent. Many animals have a keen sense of smell.
4. Don’t leave pet food outdoors or near your camp. Not only will your furry friends be disappointed when they find Yogi and Boo Boo have eaten their stash, you will have to deal with unwanted guests.
5. This is so fundamental and so important yet so many people simply don’t understand that it is incredibly unwise – let’s just call it downright stupid – to feed wild animals. Not only is it a possible violation of federal law, the deer, chipmunks, and squirrels you want to help out draw larger predators to the feeder.
Get it in habit of taking defensive tools with you when there is a chance you’ll have a close encounter of the vicious animal kind. Weapons of choice include pepper spray, a club, a hefty knife, or a firearm.
Part 2 of this article on fending off animal attacks will cover what to do when specific animals threaten your life – so stay tuned!