Welcome Home CHATS RETURN September 5, 2019

The Survival Priorities discussion was a very interesting one.  Particularly the question whether the first priority should be making a spear for protection from predators.  This made me wonder just how many of us have had dangerous wildlife encounters.  I say encounters instead of attacks because I believe that most of these up close and personal encounters probably don't result in actual attacks.  What I am looking for are unexpected and unintended encounters.  For example while just out hiking.  If you have had any such encounters, what tools/weapons or methods did you use to prevent or survive an actual attack?

I will start by relating a couple of my most recent such encounters.  They both were by skunks.  Some may not consider skunks dangerous but I don't want to get sprayed by one.  And they can carry rabies.

The first happened when I was walking to my deer stand one morning.  I say morning but it was still dark.  I walked to within about three feet of a skunk before I noticed him.  Fortunately for me he was backed into a hole and couldn't spray me.  The tool I used to avoid an attack was to beat a hasty retreat and give him a wide berth.  The second occurred one afternoon while deer hunting.  I was hunting from my portable ground blind.  Suddenly I saw a skunk headed straight for my blind.  I don't know if he knew I was there or not but I wasn't taking any chances.  He was ten feet from my blind when I started shooting him with my .22 pistol.  I fired all eight shots at him.  After the first shot I know I wasn't hitting him with every shot but I did hit him several times.  Finally he went the opposite direction and crawled into a hole under a stump.  I feel certain that he eventually died but I wasn't going to poke around that hole to find out.

If you have had any such encounters, please tell us about it.

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My encounter wasn't really with a wild animal, it was with a dog.

After I bought my first catering company and became overwhelmed with work and fatigue I stopped running. Instead my wife and I would take the dogs out and walk for a couple of miles. This was usually on a one mile loop around the neighborhood.

One of the streets we walk on has a fence that is about five feet tall. One of the yards behind a section of that fence was the home of a pit-bull that looked very much like the creature from the movie Predator.

One evening while on our walk Predator jumped on the fence, as he often did, only this time instead of just hanging there and barking he came all the way over and faced us. I didn't even think about what I should do. I became The Predator: I bent my knees and squatted down a couple of inches, spread my arms bent at the elbows as though to attack and grab him, and advanced on him while yelling incoherent sounds (I think it was HEY, HEY). He turned and ran away.

I don't know if that is what you should do in the face of a dog or other animal attack, but it worked for me.

Encounter one: 

Animal:Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Location: Burkburnett Texas

Age at the time of incident:  12

Situation.  I was barefoot, in shorts on a hot summer day waling in an open field with scrub brush when I came across the snake.  The snake alerted me to its presence by rattling its tail and coiling up into its "I'm gonna bite you sucka" pose when I was approximately 3 to 4 feet away.

Reaction:  I froze and remained motionless for a few seconds and slowly backed off until I was around ten to twelve feet away from the still agitated snake and then I ran ways we screaming like a scared twelve year old.

Encounter Two: 

Animal: Cottonmouth

Location: Cawood Kentucky

Age at the time of incident:  13

Situation.While out fishing we started overturning rocks along the river bank looking for crawdads and other critters to use for bait.  As we were doing so we came across a big ol' black water snake that was about five to six feet long.

Reaction:  We chased down the snake, trapped its head with a forked stick and proceeded to place it in the minnow bucket using our bare hands. Later that day our we showed the snake to our grandfather who identified the snake not as black water snake but a water moccasin. We were soundly chastised and learned how to tell the difference between a moccasin and harmless water snake. 

Encounter Three: 

Animal: Raccoon

Location: Chicago Illinois

Age at the time of incident:  late 30s

Situation. I was delivering newspapers.  The particular house had a box where the owner wanted to the paper left.  The owner had a habit of storing bird food in the same box. One morning while delivering the paper a raccoon had decided it wanted some bird food and was sitting in the box eating the bird food. He stood on his hind legs began hissing and politely told me to leave him be.

Reaction:  I let the raccoon dine in peace.  When I returned about an hour later bird seed and half a loaf of bread was strewn all over the place and the owner was  all pissed off.  He accused me of making the mess.   I politely handed him his paper and told him the vandal wasn't me but a hungry raccoon.

Encounter four: 

Animal: Stray dogs

Location: Chicago Illinois

Age at the time of incident:  late 30s, 40s

Situation. Delivering newspapers.  For some reason people feel it is perfectly alright to let their dogs run wild at night or there is ambulance of stray/feral dogs in the area due to nearby wetlands.  The dog are somewhat territorial.  When I approach they begin barking.  They will often lower their head, growl and and perform other acts of intimidation. Eventually they will charge.

Reaction:  At first I stop moving. Initially I will raise my head and look to the side. (lowering your head is a sign of aggression)  Raising the head and looking away is a sign of passiveness, letting the dog know you mean it know harm.

I back off slowly. If the dog stops his aggressive actions and does not follow, I leave it be. If own the other hand the dog continues to be aggressive I stand my ground and start barking back at it often louder and stronger than him.  I will math him bark for bark.  (I'm really good at imitating dog barks!)  If the dog charges, I would first throw all but one of my papers at him. Then charge the dog. Continuing to both bark and yell.

In the 20+ years of delivering newspapers I had well over a hundred dog encounters and with the exception of a wiener-dog being walked on a leash not a single dog bite or other actual physical contact.  The worst threat happened to the dogs was to get pelted by either rocks or newspapers (no real lasting damage). My ultimate goal had it come to physical contact with the dog was to shove a paper in the dogs mouth and start beating it senseless about the head. As the dogs always broke and ran first I will never know if I would've been able to shove a paper down a dog's gullet.

Other encounters with dangerous animals included snapping turtles and scorpions but in both case the encounters involved us intentionally hunting them!  I don't think those count.

The best encounter is the one that doesn't happen because you see the predator before it sees you and you retreat until you're out of sight.  When my wife and I were living in Anchorage, AK in the early 80s, one day we were taking our Weimeraner, Max, for a walk.  With spotted a huge moose standing on the path in front of us.  Luckily, Max didn't see or smell the Moose or he would have barked his fool head off, so turned him away from the moose and walked backward at a normal pace until we were out of sight. 

Also in the early 80s in Alaska, on its north coast in the small town of Barrow, I came close to an encounter with a polar bear, possibly several of them.  I was with some officials from the North Slope Borough (it's like a county) in an SUV out on the ice pack heading for the City dump when the SUV got high centered on an ice ridge.  The dump hidden by big ice "pressure ridges" and was a favorite spot of the local polar bears to scavenge for food scraps.  At first, we thought we were going to have to leave the SUV and foot it back to town.  Fortunately, though, the SUV was equipped with a two-way radio and the driver called for somebody to come and help us get off the ice ridge.  Soon, we were off the ice peak and heading back to town.

As far as I know, these two incidents were as close as I've come to a "close encounter of the predator kind."  LOL

Would a good spear have been an effective defense weapon in these near encounters?  Probably not, but who knows for sure?  Actually, I don't care either way.  I still think a spear is a must have for anyone hiking in the bush.

I have had encounters with dogs too.  When I lived in Topeka, KS I would ride my bike around the subdivision.  There was a dog that would chase me on the bike.  So I started carrying my mace that I had left over from my police days.  When he would get close to me I would spray him with the mace.  He would always turn tail and run.

James Cole said:

My encounter wasn't really with a wild animal, it was with a dog.

I have had 2- Both with poisonous snakes-- BTW, I DO NOT LIKE SNAKES !! The first was while a junior in high school- I was in an advanced biology class which required independent study.2 classmates & I had made a mesh wire funnel ended fish trap to capture & maintain an indigenous fresh water aquarium. We had set the trap in the middle of a shallow river near one of my classmates' grandfather's farm.The fish trap was on a long wire lead anchored to a very narrow bank with a very steep 8 foot  ledge behind us .One friend waded out in the river to retrieve the trap. I was standing barefoot and in shorts on the narrow bank, while the 3rd friend waited high up behind us. As the retriever of the fish trap neared me he lifted the  trap out of the water. He shouted- Hey, we caught a yellow belly catfish, a bluegill----- & 2 COTTONMOUTHS !!! He then threw the trap at me, which bounced off my legs and landed on the bank less than a foot away.The mesh in the trap had enough of a gap that the snakes were starting to escape. Panicked, with no where to go, I grabbed a small piece of water-soaked wood that was nearby and tried keeping them at bay inside the trap.I yelled to the friend on the top of the ledge to grab something to kill them with. He came back with a hatchet that did little but piss off the cottonmouths more and tear up the fish trap. Finally, the hatchet retriever remembered his granddad had a .22 rifle--DOH!! When he got back with the rifle, I was able to shoot both in the head ending the confrontation-- Seemed like an eternity on that little ledge of a riverbank.In actuality, probably 20 minutes.

The 2nd-- And without a doubt, the single most terrifying event in my life-- I am now a Freshman Zoology major at an Illinois University.One Saturday, I was in the Zoology building alone listening to reel to reel tapes of a course that had no professor per se, but weekly exams by a TA.The head of the entire zoology dept. walks in and says" Boy, am I glad to see you ! All my grad students went home this weekend and I need your help !! - Hoping for brownie points, I of course said yes. At this point I will add that this professor's speciality was herpetology, especially venomous snakes. He added, you are about to see something that few people on this campus even know exists-- My collection of poisonous snakes-- I need you to help me feed them.He led me to a small nondescript building behind the Zoology facility.It was a windowless,stone walled building about the size of a 1 car garage with a padlocked metal door. It looked like a supply shed.We entered and he padlocked the door again from the inside. The entire building was lit by a single 10 Watt bulb, and anything below your knees was in total darkness. The snakes were in glass aquarium like structures, except they opened from a sliding panel on the front of the enclosure that opened from either end. I viewed black mambas, various others from around the world, when he exclaimed while viewing an empty cage- Crap, the damn grad student left the door open-- There are 8 copperheads loose in here somewhere !! Help me catch em, handing me a pronged snake handling pole-This crazy sucker had been bitten so many times, that he had built a tolerance to snake venom & was crawling around on his hands & knees looking for them. I myself, stood completely motionless for 3 solid hours in stark terror, imagining slithering noises all about me, until he finally recaptured them all.

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