Summer is coming and people are making their vacation plans. Many folks head into wilderness areas with their camping gear for some well-needed rest and relaxation.
The prospect of a close encounter with a dangerous animal is one that is often overlooked by folks who just want some peace and quiet away from the normal routine.
As with any survival scenario, preparation is the key to success.
Remember, all wild animals are protected by federal laws. Basically, humans aren’t allowed to feed them or mess with them in any way, shape or form.
However, some states have laws to protect humans from physical damage (or death) caused by wildlife. The Arkansas game and fish code, for example, allows an exception to the state law, which prohibits killing a game animal out of season or without a permit, if the killing was an act of self-defense.
Some of the creatures mentioned here may make you chuckle. But our first cautionary tale is my own and involves some definite “fowl” play.
Ah, spring. When flowers bloom and birds are on the wing. If you visit a lake during the springtime, you may encounter wild geese starting a family. The mother goose lays up to five eggs and sits on them while daddy goose stands guard somewhere in the general area.
Many people have reported being attacked by wild geese – and Yours Truly is no exception. During my regular walk around a small lake this spring, an angry, hissing male goose put its beak down and directed it forward as it menaced toward me, hissing a warning.
Understanding that this big fella was only doing his job, protecting his wife and future kids, I turned to head in the other direction. The goose rushed forward, running toward me with his beak poised like a snapping battering ram. He was advancing uncomfortably close for comfort.
After the third attempt to retreat by turning around, I decided to “think like a goose” and, while keeping eye contact with my aggressor, began to clap my hands with broad, sweeping arm motions (like wings, I hoped the goose would think) and walk backwards, uphill, and out of the breeding ground. The goose seemed puzzled by my actions and stood still, hissing at me.
Sure, you could probably outrun a goose. But I know you can’t outfly one. Every time I turned my back on that upset goose, he became more aggressive. Never turn and run from a goose, take it from me.
You can also take it from Rachel Levin>, author of “Look Big: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of all Kinds,” who confirmed that it is very important that the attacking goose (or geese) find you “at least somewhat threatening, even if you’re feeling like a wimp.”
An untold number of visitors to Yellowstone National Park pose their children on the backs of bison to take souvenir photos. I’ve seen it myself. The fact is that bison are responsible for twice as many park injuries as grizzly bears.
These enormous animals act unpredictably. Consider that a fully grown male bison can weigh about 2,000 pounds, a female bison can reach 1,100 pounds, and a newborn baby bison calf weighs between 40 and 50 pounds. Then add the fact that these galloping locomotives can run as fast as 40 mph.
Then follow the National Park Service rule and stay at least 100 yards away from bison. You don’t want to be butted, gored, or stomped, do you?
After a bison charges and knocks down a human, it usually goes back to its important business of grazing the tall grasses but there have been incidents where the victims were gored on the ground while the bison stood over the body, preventing escape.
If you see a bison heading your way fast, run for close cover if you think you can outrun the beast. Shelter behind a large object and dodge or move out of the way so the bison can’t get at you. Climb a tree. Unlike bears, these predators don’t do trees.
Furthermore, bison are herbivores. They don’t want to eat you. They simply find you (and your kids) annoying.
WOLVES OR COYOTES
Another name for a coyote is prairie wolf. Both coyotes and wolves are stealthy and cunning hunters which stalk their prey. They travel in packs and coordinate sneak attacks, coming in from behind to nip at and rip leg muscles in order to fell their target. Once on the ground, the pack gathers in a swarm to finish the job.
If you are staring down a pack of wolves or coyotes, DO NOT RUN. You can’t beat 30 mph, their top speed.
Yell and act aggressively to back off the animal attacker. Keep your footing so the pack can’t swarm over you.
If you are alone, surrounded by a pack of snarling wolves or coyotes, get out the firearm we hope you brought along just for this occasion and shoot to kill. It’s you or them.
If you are with a group of people, take up a defensive position back-to-back and face the animals. Fight back with sharp sticks, clubs, knives, rocks, beer cans (full is preferred since they weigh more) – anything and everything at your disposal.
These critters mean business – and their job, in the natural order, is to kill and eat you.
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Study up on the wildlife in areas you plan to visit before you arrive and teach your children what to expect and how to behave if a wild animal confrontation occurs. Now, go on out there and have a good time!