How to Survive and Avoid Animal Attacks
For most of us, the likelihood of actually being attacked by a wild animal is very low indeed, purely because most of the creatures we share our world with have a deep, ingrained fear of us. Normally, their first reaction is to flee; if attacks do occur, then it’s usually as a result of the animal feeling threatened in some way, such as when a mother bear is trying to protect her cubs. Attacks can also occur out of sheer desperation, such as when the animal’s natural food is unavailable. There are some animals out there, that are sometimes referred to as man-eaters, but these are exceptions, even among their own species, as their man eating tendencies probably came about as a result of attacking a human out of desperation, and then discovering that humans are relatively easy creatures to kill.
Below, I’m going to give tips on the best ways to survive attacks by six of the most dangerous creatures on the planet, and also how to avoid being attacked in the first place.
An Elusive Cat
Africa is home to some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, it’s a continent where size matters very little in terms of lethality. For example, the black mamba is among the most venomous snakes on the planet, it’s often known as the fifteen step snake on account of its victims only being able to walk fifteen steps before dropping down dead. The danger to humans isn’t just limited to the sort of animals that you would expect to threaten us, such as the big cats. Indeed, you’re more likely to be attacked by a giant herbivore than a lion.
The leopard is probably the least likely out of the big cats to attack a human, primarily because they need to be in tip top condition in order to survive, even the smallest injury could render them useless at hunting and cause starvation. They are naturally cautious animals and tend to back down if thrown into a conflict.
However, as always in nature there are exceptional circumstances, and the time a leopard is more likely to attack is if it has been injured in some way. Humans are comparatively easy prey compared to their usual ungulate quarry, as we are rather slow, and if unarmed are virtually defenceless. While attacks on adults are relatively rare, leopards on occasion will pick off children in rural areas, as they are easier prey.
With leopards, there are three very easy steps to take to avoid an attack:
- Don’t approach them too closely, especially if you see cubs. If they’re on their own, don’t take any chances, because the mother could return at any moment, and bear in mind her sense of smell is very powerful, and she’ll likely be aware of your presence long before you're aware of hers.
- Make sure that you keep any small children secure during the hours of darkness, if you happen to be camping in areas known to be frequented by leopards. Remember that they are mostly active at night, so that’s when the greatest danger is.
- If you are confronted by a charging leopard, don’t run, try to bluff your way out of the attack by clapping your hands or waving your hands, basically do anything that will make you appear bigger.
The Awesome Power of the Leopard
King of the Beasts
By and large if you were to ever encounter a lion in the wild, then it would probably flee rather than attempting an attack. Although not as cautious as leopards, the same rules apply in terms of sustaining an injury, particularly if the lion is without a pride. If you've ever been on safari though, you may be scratching your head at this point, you may remember getting exceptionally close in your vehicle and the lions not taking a blind bit of notice, instead just lounging around and swatting lazily at the flies with their tails. But very often, lions like these have become so habituated to vehicles that they barely notice their presence, even the sound of excited voices and clicking cameras isn't enough to disturb them.
However, there’s a new kind of safari that has sprung up in Africa in recent times, the walking safari. Here things are a little different; the lions are now confronted with the familiar human form. Remember that we and lions share an evolutionary history going back millions of years, and thus are all too familiar with what we’re capable of; consequently they always perceive humans as a threat.
The behaviour of lions towards our kind varies from region to region. For instance, in areas where tourism is rare, the lions may attempt to literally scare you away from them by initiating mock charges, which I imagine can be very disconcerting.
Here’s what to do if you are ever attacked by a lion:
- A lion charging at you while on foot is one of the most frightening experiences you could ever have. Naturally, you’d experience an urge to flee, but in actual fact, attempting to flee increases the likelihood of attack, as lions are used to pursuing a prey. Remember, that a lion can reach speeds of 30 mph easily while Usain Bolt’s fastest speed has been recorded at 24 mph. When a lion charges, it usually emits a deep growling sound that reverberates right through you.
- Try and fight your urge to flee, hold your ground, and perhaps retreat slowly, while continuing to face the lion. Like the leopard, clap your hands, shout and wave your hands to make yourself look bigger. Most of the time, a lion will only mock charge, so as long as you keep your composure, then you’ll be fine.
Sometimes avoiding a lion attack can be difficult, it’s very much a question of circumstance and often you find yourself having to think on your feet. But here are some useful tips to bear in mind if you want to avoid being attacked by a lion.
- Never approach too closely in general, but particularly when cubs are present or if mating is taking place; after all nobody likes to be disturbed then.
- Even approaching a pair of mating lions in a vehicle is unwise, as they extremely aggressive at this time.
- A lioness with cubs obviously becomes more protective. But the danger they pose to humans is greater at night as they lose their inherent fear of us.
- Following on from the previous two points; it’s advisable to be more cautious at night and avoid camping in any area known to be high in lion density. If worried, then maintain a vigil throughout the night.
The Largest Land Carnivore on the Planet
The Brown and Black Bear
Bears are probably the most dangerous large carnivore that most of us in the west are likely to encounter, particularly in North America, and knowing what to do if a bear decides to pick a fight is crucial because if you find yourself face to face with one, then you’re in a real tight corner.
So, how do you avoid being attacked by a bear in the first place?
- If you should meet a bear on a nature trail, then immediately say something in a calm voice to indicate that you’re not a threat.
- If the bear doesn’t run off, then try and work out which way you should go, so that it can easily get by.
- Keep talking calmly as you pass by. Make sure you maintain a distance at least equal to the one that separated you and the bear on your initial encounter.
- Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the bear’s departure, especially while they’re trying to fatten up for hibernation. Remember it’s a matter of life and death for them, so the less they’re disturbed the better.
- If possible travel in groups and make some noise, so that you don’t surprise the bear.
What about if they do attack? Here’s what to do:
- A brown bear will occasionally attack when threatened, whereas when a black bear attacks, it means to kill. So the most effective defence is pepper spray delivered from an aerosol canister,
- If you don’t have spray handy, and you find a marauding bear charging towards you, then play dead, fall to the ground, lie on your stomach and cover the back of your neck with hands. Playing dead may reduce the sense of threat felt by the bear and it might you leave you be.
- If a single young bear approaches you and you feel threatened, make sure you have something in your hands, whether it be a stick, a bicycle, anything that could be used as a defensive weapon, and make sure that you keep it between yourself and the bear.
- If you are travelling in a group, make sure that everybody stays together.
- Again if travelling in a group, you could try ganging up and trying to fight as one, kicking and screaming as much as you can. Use any weapons you can get your hands on, such as knives and tree branches to use as clubs. Do not attempt to climb a tree, as it could end up splitting the group apart, and remember that bears can climb trees, to an extent.
Polar Bears Hunting Whales
The Nile Crocodile
Jaws of Death
Crocodiles are extraordinary creatures, surviving virtually unchanged for millions of years. If a Tyrannosaurus were ever to return to Earth, then crocodiles would be among the few creatures that it would actually recognise. Today, they are one of the deadliest creatures on the planet; they have little fear of anything. Basically, they go for anything that falls into the water, they never discriminate between prey. Almost every crocodile attack occurs during the rainy season (December-March) when the huge fast flowing rivers are swollen by the heavy rains. The majority of victims are rural children who simply cannot resist cavorting in the water.
If you are attacked by a crocodile then there is very little you can do, obviously you will initially feel shock, but if you have enough presence of mind then try to gouge its eyes out with a free limb, but there are several useful steps you can take to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place.
- Don’t swim in any rivers that might have crocodiles in them. If you’re not sure, then throw a few stones into the water as that should be enough to trigger a reaction from any crocs that might be lurking beneath.
- If you have to swim, then avoid any backwaters and inlets because that’s where crocs like to lie in wait.
- If you’re travelling in a boat and it capsizes, then don’t panic as that will attract the crocodiles. Keep calm at all times and on no account should you scream or splash.
- If you end up in the water, then swim straight for shore underwater using breaststroke if possible.
Crocodiles and the Wildebeest Migration
The Most Dangerous Large Animal in Africa
The Bird That Could Save Your Life
A walk through the African bush during the long, hot dry season could bring you face to face with a hippo. While attacks on humans are rare, it would be foolish to dismiss these animals as harmless herbivores. They have been known to kill large crocodiles with just a single bite; therefore a human would be virtually defenceless if one were ever to turn aggressive. In fact, hippos are often considered to be the most dangerous of all of Africa’s large mammals, purely down to the power of their bite.
Once again, there are certain measures you can take in order to avoid being attacked in the first place:
- If travelling in a canoe, then allow the hippos plenty of space, and avoid rivers with high densities.
- Tap the side of your canoe, to signal your position, by doing this you help deter the hippos from coming up beneath you.
- If travelling on foot over land, then keep your distance and avoid any thickets where a hippo may be stalking.
- Listen out for oxpecker calls, as they are a good indicator of the presence of a hippo.
- As a last resort, utilise trees or termite mounds as cover.
The Deadly Three
The Most Dangerous Beach in the World
Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare, in fact you’re more likely to die as a result of a meteor impact than a shark attack, but should it ever happen, then knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death.
Sharks have often been vilified in the past as vicious merciless killers, with the film ‘Jaws’ going a long way to establishing that particular paradigm. But that reputation is largely unjustified, after all the vast majority of the world’s shark species are completely harmless. Also, think about this, each year millions of people engage in a wide range of activities in the sea, but fewer than 100 are attacked by sharks. In contrast, more than 100 million sharks are brutally slaughtered each year by humans, mostly for their fins used in the now infamous shark fin soup.
While most shark species are harmless to us, there are three species that account for more than half of all known attacks: the great white, tiger and bull shark. But by and large attacks by these species are usually a case of mistaken identity, usually mistaking a surfboard or a prone human figure for a seal. Occasionally they will mistakenly bite a person in poor visibility, but once they realise their error, they swim away, others will bite in self defence if they feel threatened in some way.
Similar to the crocodile, there’s little you can do if attacked by a shark except to try and gouge its eyes out, but of course there are some very simple steps you can take to avoid such a terrifying situation in the first place.
- Don’t wear any shiny jewellery or any bright colours as they serve as a magnet for a hungry shark.
- Stay out of the water if you have any open wounds or are bleeding from any part of your body.
- Stay in groups, as a shark is more likely to target a lone individual.
- Keep out of the water during the hours of darkness, as this is when sharks are highly active. Avoid murky water, because it’s all too easy for a shark to mistake you as something else.
- Do not visit the New Smyrna Beach Florida, as more shark attacks have occurred here than anywhere else in the world.