Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What to do if approached by a predator!

I was running on my local bike trail recently and came across a sign that was taped to a mileage post.  It said that there were mountain lions spotted in the area and to not run alone after dusk.  It was a little late for me to take that warning into consideration.  I can tell you my senses were heightened and every little lizard or mouse in the bushes made me think I was being stalked by a mountain lion.  Luckily, I made it home safe.  The sign did say what to do if you are approached though.  I wanted to compile a list of what to do if you are approached by various predators.

Mountain Lion 

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, from 1986-2014, there were only 14 attacks on humans (only 3 being fatal attacks) (1). While it is rare, mountain lion sightings do happen.  Do not run!  Running may stimulate a mountain lions instinct to chase.  Instead, stand tall and face the animal.  Start to shout and throw sticks and rocks (2). This can intimidate the mountain lion, which can make it lose interest.  Your chances of being confronted by a mountain lion are reduced if you are not alone.


Rattlesnakes can be identified by two characteristics.  They have a triangular shaped head and typically have rattles at the end of their tails.  One note of caution is that just because it doesn’t have a rattle, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  They can lose their rattles and it is hard to see rattles on baby rattlesnakes.  Rattlesnakes are typically docile and would rather stay away from humans than attack them.  Most attacks are due to the snake feeling threatened or startled.  Rattlesnakes shake their rattle to warn you, but don’t always rattle before attacking. If a rattlesnake bites you, it will most likely be painful, but is rarely life threatening (3). 

The first thing to do is to stay calm.  If there is any restrictive clothing or jewelry near the wound, remove it.  There will most likely be swelling near the wound and you don’t want to cut off circulation.  Immobilize the wounded limb as much as possible and try to keep it below your heart.  Unnecessary movement will only make the venom spread faster.  Get to a hospital as soon as possible.  Contact them when you are on the way to let them know that you are coming and that you have a rattlesnake bite (3).

If bitten by a rattlesnake, do not use a tourniquet, try to cut the wound to get the venom out, try to suck the venom out, apply ice, or drink anything (except for a little bit of water) (3). 

Bears naturally try to avoid humans.  Do not try and outrun a bear.  They can run faster than humans on any terrain.  If you are far enough away from the bear (about 350 feet) and it has not detected you, retreat slowly.  If you need to go past where the bear is, wait a while for the bear to leave (4). 

If you are far enough away from the bear (about 350 feet) and it has detected you, let it identify you as a human.  Stop moving and speak calmly to the bear.  This will let the bear know that you are not a threat.  It will usually give up some ground.  Find a way around the bear, but try to stay upwind of the bear and continue to talk calmly.  That way, the bear knows where you are and that you are not a threat.  You may also wave your arms to help identify you as a human (4). 

If a bear identifies you and starts to act aggressive, you should first assess the situation.  You want to try to retreat if possible, keep an eye on the bear and continue to talk calmly.  Do not look at the bear in the eyes though, just watch for where it is at as you back away.  You can try and climb a tall tree, although bears can climb trees too.  You will want to get at least 30 feet up in the tree.  The hope is that they will feel less threatened with you in the tree and leave (4).

If you are attacked by a black bear, fight back with anything you can get your hands on.  If you are attacked by a grizzly bear, play dead.  After the attack has ended, remain where you are for a few minutes to determine if the bear has left the area.  If so, leave and obtain medical help.  These are the most effective ways to survive bear attacks (4).    

A Human Predator

Most attacks by humans are in locations where people run alone, like remote parks, or are running in the dark.  The best thing to do is run with a partner or run when it is light out.  If attacked, scream or do anything else to draw attention to you.  A cheap dollar-store whistle is a great investment and can help alert people in the area that you need help.  It may scare off the predator as well.  If you are attacked, try to fight off your attacker.  Go for the most vulnerable spots.  Eyes, noses, ears, genitals, and knees are all great places to hit or kick if possible.  This could give you enough time to get to your feet and run away. 

There are several free apps for your smart phone which can help keep you safe and notify your family if you stop moving.  These apps include Kitestring, Road ID eCrumb, bSafe, and the React Mobile app.  While there are threats out there, we can be better prepared to handle these situations.  This will increase the chance of survival.  What are your tips on surviving these predators or others?

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