How to Survive… Animal Attacks

Animals are very powerful beings that don’t fight with weapons, just brute strength, and sometimes the element of surprise. Most animal attacks stem from a surprise encounter or an unfortunate food situation for the animal. Surviving an animal attack is always possible, if you know what to do in the given situation. With most animal attacks, the survival tips are going to be similar, with the first being: “Don’t get into the situation in the first place!” But since hindsight is 20/20 here are some outdoor survival skills for getting your self out of some scary situations.

Before venturing into the wilderness, learn about the animals that are native to the area and their habits; this research should be a part of anyone’s education in outdoor survival skills. These skills are crucial when trying to avoid any chance encounter that could be fatal.

It is widely known that bears may attack when surprised, and especially if you get between a sow and her cubs. Before heading outdoors into bear country, be sure to have a couple of items handy: a bear bell and bear (pepper) spray. The best survival tip when traversing with these beasts is to make noise while hiking – they are generally easily scared off by noise.

What if you cannot avoid the encounter?

  • Don’t make eye contact or stare at the bear – it may take this as a challenge.
  • Back away slowly, NEVER RUN or climb a tree.
  • Speak in a soothing voice.
  • If the bear charges, roll into a ball and protect your head with your arms, or use your wilderness pack.
  • If the bear continues, use your spray or deliver a couple of sharp blows to the snout if possible.

Dogs (including wolves), usually don’t attack people unless they are extremely surprised, sick or ravenously hungry. Women and children are more likely to be attacked, but you never know when you’ll come upon a dog or wolf outdoors that may be ready for a fight. Recognize the signs of aggression in canines: often their ears will lay flat or prick up, they will snarl, growl and bare their teeth.

What if you cannot avoid the encounter?

  • Lower your eyes – dogs see this as a sign of submission.
  • Tell the dog to, “Go Away.”
  • Don’t smile as bared teeth are a further sign of aggression to a dog.
  • If the dog attacks, either:  curl up into a ball and cover your face and neck, or if you can do so without running, climb a tree or high rock.

Attacks are definitely rare, but it’s better to be safe and have some knowledge of these oversized felines; mountain lions and other large cats are ferocious animals that have been known to stalk and kill humans with no sound or warning. Mountain lions generally attack their prey from behind, grabbing the prey’s back and neck with their paws and crushing the neck with their teeth. It is extremely important, if you are in their habitat, to be aware of everything around you (especially if you are with children) and to be loud while hiking; wearing a bell will can do the trick.

What if you cannot avoid the encounter?

  • If you have a child with you, immediately pick the child up.
  • Be as scary and as big as possible – scream, yell and wave your arms. Growling and staring at the animal will make it uncomfortable as well and may scare it off.
  • Walk slowly backwards to leave the area.
  • If the cat will not back down, throw rocks and large sticks at it.
  • If you are attacked, fight back but be sure to protect your head and neck. Cougars may retreat when punched and attacked, especially with a well-placed jab in the eye.

Crocodiles and alligators are known for their superb hiding skills in swampy, muddy water. The best advice to avoid an attack is to know when you are in their habitat and stay away from rivers, river banks and water in general. If you happen to be in the water and spy a croc or alligator, get out of the water immediately.

What if you cannot avoid the encounter?

  • Get as far away from the animal as possible, as quickly as possible. Crocs and alligators can run fast so you need to be faster to escape those powerful jaws.
  • If you are attacked, repeatedly punch the animal in its snout and try to gouge at its eyes, and nostrils. If you have an arm or a leg in the animal’s mouth, try to punch or kick its throat and under its tongue.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for any wounds as crocodiles and alligators live in bacteria-infested waters.

Sharks are one of the most feared predators on the planet. There are only a few species that are aggressive towards humans, and even then it is generally due to fear rather than attacking out of hunger. The key to avoiding shark attacks in most situations is knowing that there are sharks in the area you will be in. Avoid swimming, surfing and other water activities when the sky is cloudy and the water is murky. Try to stay out of the water at dawn and dusk; these are the most likely feeding times and make sure to swim in groups, close to the shore. Try to leave your dog at home – sharks have been known to be attracted by dogs’ erratic swimming motions.

What if you cannot avoid the encounter?

  • If you see a shark close to you in the water, get out immediately (Duh.)
  • Display aggressive behavior; punch and kick the shark.
  • If the shark attacks you, immediately scratch, punch or gouge its eyes.

Animal attacks are rare and usually not fatal – you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than be attacked by a shark. Animals are usually creatures of habit so before you head into their territory, learn about their habits and there general whereabouts to make sure that an unfortunate incident doesn’t occur. These attacks rarely happen out of aggression and are usually provoked by surprise and fear. So put some effort into learning about the creatures you’re sharing the wilderness with and add these tips to your wealth of wilderness survival knowledge.