Referring to my last article “How Not To Get Fucked Over From Bears” I thought I would add a little more after reading this article on CBC this morning. This was the story near the townsite of Banff Alberta where a young man was attacked by a cougar while wearing headphones but managed to fight the animal off with his skateboard. Of course he did the right thing, he survived and well.
The first thing you do when in a potentially violent animal encounter is assess if the animal is engaging in predatory behaviour or if this is a territorial dispute. In the cases of territorial disputes you will have to decide what the territory means to you and if it’s worth defending otherwise you must try to disengage from the animal. Do you fight the raccoon on your porch going after your pie? I would but other people would be best not to. In the case of being attacked and potentially eaten by a mountain lion the absolute right thing to was for this young man to kick some cougar ass!
One thing you hafta understand about predatory behavior is that they are always looking for an easy meal. Most of the time a predator will back down from a prey who is determined to fight back and for very good reasons, the predator can not risk injury for the sake of one meal as it may end up being their last. An injury can mean certain and slow death to a predator. For this reason alone people who fight back tend to survive, but it goes a little deeper yet in the case. A cougar for example does not understand what a human being is and what they are capable of. If you turn and run you tell them that you are prey, if you stand and fight they have to re-analyze the situation with what little ability they possess to rationally come to a decision. A cougar has no encyclopedia to tell them about humans, all they have to go on is your body language, your smells and perhaps even the rhythm of your heartbeat which I believe they can perceive.
More than 10 years ago a man was attacked by a cougar in northern Vancouver Island. When he first turned and saw the cougar his first instinct was to run for she already had an attack position. The cougar leapt on to him, tore his scalp off before he managed to roll over and kill it with the knife he had on him. That man’s first mistake was to run rather than turn and go on the offensive himself. Those are split second decisions that leave one no time for rationalizing, you must deeply ingrain into yourself what kind of reaction you will unfurl at an attacking predator.
In the case of the fella this weekend who was attacked by the cougar and fought it off with his skateboard he made one critical error as well that could have cost him his life. Wearing headphones while your head is down leaving you unawares to events unfolding around you is stupid and dangerous. My general demeanor in the forest, as I wrote in my last blog, is to walk with my head up occasionally stopping to look and listen to all things in the 360 degrees around. Children and women are particularly vulnerable to animals such as cougars, children make easy prey and women who are having their period will particularly draw the nose of an unwanted carnivore.
Having confidence and getting mean will work against most predatory animals, and that often includes people who rarely pick a fight with someone who they think can beat them. Even shark experts say that people who fight back have a better chance of survival than those who do not, however in the case of a shark you are best to wait until you are sure it is coming to get you as your stirring of the water can attract unwanted attention. It was noted by the survivors of the famous U.S.S. Indianopolis sinking in 1945 that the people who fought back against the sharks were generally left alone, the sharks would move on to attack the weaker dying and wounded sailors. If you are attacked by a muskie or jack fish in a northern Canadian lake I am not sure if there’s much you can do except try not to panic, keep your head above water and keep fighting to get to shore!
Even in the case of a grizzly bear I would not hesitate to fight back if I believed that bear had it’s mind set on killing me, if it was obvious that I was going to lose the battle I might then go completely limp and play dead…but first I would make a stand to satisfy myself that I have done all that I could. If I felt that I was potentially in danger, knew an angry bear was around and had time to act I would most likely start a fire using lots of spruce/pine needles for extra smoke as that usually is enough to keep unwanted animals away from you. If I had to burn the whole forest down I would do that and a province wide fire ban is irrelevant in my opinion when it comes to genuine survival situations.
I have no experience with a polar bear to give any recommendations here, they are superb predators without much fear of anything. That would be my answer as well if asked about tigers and lions, however if you don’t fight back what are your remaining options when you cannot outrun something? In the case of wolves and other Canadian predators you would rarely need to test them. We were always warned as children to not fear the wolves but to be vary wary of any pack of roaming dogs, especially once they start turning wild. They do not have the same fear of people as wolves do. Wolverines and fisher cats are incredibly mean and nasty but particularly the wolverine is known to avoid people at almost any cost. During my best run in with a fisher cat the animal didn’t even acknowledge me as it walked right by on its way sniffing for a porcupine it was trying to locate, it had no fear but also had no interest in what I was up to.
At the end of all this I can say that the animals that have actually scared me in the past decade have not been what you might think. Stumbling over a porcupine in the dark, or a skunk, for that matter is an unfortunate situation. A common house cat I had to remove from my place was about as mean as anything I had ever encountered, when it turned on me I thought ‘holy shit’. I was in the Rocky Mountain foothills one time a few years back keeping my head up for a possible Grizzly when I realized there was an aggressive bull in the field (YES A BEEF COW) which chased me right over the electric fence! I was attacked by a swan once and by geese on the farm numerous times. The wild animals have rarely bothered me and they rarely bother anyone. As I said before most people are killed in the forest by the terrain, climate, injuries and poor decisions.