Let’s face it. Being outside in nature runs the risk of running into some wildlife. Being educated on how to react can make the difference between a great story to tell and a trip to the hospital. Here are some tips on how to keep you safe outside.
There are some basic things that you can do to prevent animal encounters. When we go into any wildlife environment, we are entering their home and like Mr. Martin Payne always says, RESPECT MY HOUSE! Please remember that these creatures want to avoid us as much as we want to avoid them. The easiest thing that we can do is STAY VIGILANT! If you hear, see, smell, or even feel that something is off, be on alert. Sunlight is your friend! Never hike at dawn or dusk when it’s too dark to see your surroundings. Try not to hike alone. The more people, the more noise you will make, which will alert any nearby animals and lessen the chance of an encounter.
Insects are the most common wildlife you’ll see on your trips. Mosquitos, flies, and ticks are very prevalent in the outdoors. Make sure that you have a good bug repellent to prevent any unnecessary bites. My personal favorite is Off Deep Woods Spray. It’s also on the non-smelly side, thankfully. Once you’re home, do a full body check. Look for any bumps, rashes, or ticks that could have made their way to you. If you do happen to see a tick, watch the video below on how to remove it SAFELY. Take it from me. You’d rather take the precaution to prevent a bite than crying profusely in the emergency room, waiting for a negative blood test result after the bite.
Snakes are also a smaller animal that may pop up on one of your hikes. Most trails that may have them will have a sign to warn you before starting, but it’s always a good idea to talk with your park ranger if you’re unsure or just want to know what to look out for. Assume that any snake you see is venomous and proceed with extreme caution. Give the snake as much room as possible. He can’t bite you if he can’t reach you! Most snakes on marked trails are non-venomous but again, it’s always better to air on the side of caution. If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten, please remain calm. An increase in your heart rate can increase the spread of the venom. Don’t try to be a hero by sucking the venom or doing any of the things you see in movies. That will make things a lot worse. Instead, remember as many details you can about the snake that bit you (color, size, stripes) and head to the nearest hospital. Those details will help your medics know to treat your wound best.
On to the big dogs, or bigger critters. There’s not much you can do to prevent seeing a larger animal outside. If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. The best you can do is educate yourself on what to do if the time comes. There was a time Asia and I were in the woods wandering, as we often do when we both realized we had no idea what to do if we saw any animals on our hike. We put together all the information we thought to be true about what we should and shouldn’t do when suddenly, we heard a rustling in the trees. “WTF WAS THAT??” we both thought. Then we heard more rustling followed by a loud crash. All theories went out the window as we stood still in fear, trying to decide if we should run or investigate. Thankfully, it was just a large tree limb that fell but if it were anything else, we would’ve been goners!
Let’s Talk About Some Do’s & Dont’s
DO stay still when you first see an animal. Any swift movements such as running can trigger an attack. It’s best to walk backward SLOWLY from an animal.
DO NOT approach the animal. ESPECIALLY smaller baby animals because best believe, their mama is not far behind and will do anything to protect her young.
DO make yourself seem taller and louder than what you are. Wave your arms and talk in a slow but assertive tone. The trick is to make yourself seem like more of a threat than prey.
DO NOT turn your back. How can you defend yourself against a creature you can’t see? Most wildcats like bobcats or mountain lions are ambush attackers, meaning they like to have the element of surprise before they attack. Please don’t give them that opportunity.
DO fight back, if attacked. Use any possible weapons (rocks, bookbag, tree limbs) to defend yourself and always aim for the face or muzzle.
Let’s be real. Wildlife encounters are rare and the chances of an attack, even slimmer. This blog isn't written to discourage anyone from heading outside and enjoying the great outdoors. Knowledge is power, so use this information as motivation to get your hiking boots dirty and explore some new trails fearlessly.