Categories > Survival Techniques for Adventurers

Animal Attacks

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.

How to Build a Fire

Knowing how to make a fire is one of the fundamental skills of survival.  Regardless of whether you are lost in the woods, camping with friends or
trying to keep warm after a storm has destroyed your home, knowing how to start and maintain a fire is an important part of the survival equation.

You will need 3 things to get a fire going and keeping it at a healthy burn level:

The first of these is an ignition source. The most portable fire starters are waterproof matches and butane lighters. Both of these items should be present in each and every survival kit you bring on your travels. It is an important survival technique to have more than one method of fire ignition available to you in your kit, in case something happens to your primary fire starter. If for some reason you find yourself separated from your kit, or have reached the end of your butane or match supply, then you can use alternative fire starters made from common materials such as batteries and steel wool. By taping together the positive and negative terminals of two AA batteries, and then connecting the exposed terminals together with fine grade steel wool, you can superheat the steel to the point where it will readily ignite dry tinder. Also, having flint and a knife is essential in a wilderness survival kit. If you’re more of a Tom Hanks type as opposed to a MacGyver type, you can use the old spindle and fireboard technique (better know as rubbing two sticks together).

  • Friction method of Fire Starting: Starting a fire with simply friction is, well, really hard. Be prepared for the most emotional firestarting experience of your life. First, find a dry, rounded stick (spindle) and a dry flat piece of wood. Cut a groove lengthwise down the wood and place your tinder nest at the bottom. Then, sub your spindle up and down the groove quickly to try and get a spark into your tinder nest. There are other variations of the friction methods as well. The most important thing to remember is to have your tinder nest ready and a supply of kindling nearby to feed your fire after it is started.
  • LENS Method of Fire Starting: Again, this method is not the easiest. You will need a lens of some sort, glasses, magnifying glass, mirror, etc. Simply focus sunlight from the sun through the lens in the smallest point possible onto the tinder nest.

The next step is to provide tinder and kindling to help your fire catch. Tinder is the term for small, dry flammable objects that will readily
catch fire. Some good examples of tinder are lint or fluff from clothing, dry twigs, dry pine needles, paper or dry grass and plants. Tinder doesn’t burn very long, which is why you need to combine it with kindling. Kindling is the term for the small, thin pieces of wood that you can use to get your main fire fuel to catch. Kindling has a large surface area and a low internal volume, making it burn hot enough to set the main fuel on fire – smaller logs usually do the trick.

The fire’s fuel is the final component of the fire pyramid. The most frequent fuels used are wood or coal, but thick books and upholstery such as seat cushions will also serve the purpose. Make sure that you have gathered enough fuel to keep the fire burning as long as you need it to – it will be difficult to venture out into the dark to search for more fuel by the dying light of your fire if you run out.  It is better to gather and stockpile too much wood than to not have enough.

You will need to protect your fire from water and wind, both of which can put an early end to combustion, especially if it is just beginning to catch. Wind can also blow embers out of the fire and onto other flammable materials such as tents, clothes and dried grass, so be wary of the weather and your choice of fire location. Once a fire has died down to just glowing coals, it can still provide a good source of warmth over the course of the night.

Outdoor Cooking for Adventurers

When it comes to outdoor cooking, you can make things as complicated or as simple as you want them to be. In a survival situation, it is always better to focus on simple meals which can be made quickly with minimum preparation time and clean up. It also helps to have the fewest amount of utensils or cooking implements involved as you can. Minimalist cooking is a solid philosophy which keeps your backpack light and your environmental impact low.

A campfire provides many opportunities for minimalist cooking. Of course, everyone is familiar with roasting things like hotdogs and marshmallows on a stick. You can also do this with mushrooms, bell peppers, strips of beef and chicken breasts. However, there are also other ways to cook using a campfire. Instead of roasting over the open flame, you can use the campfire’s red hot coals to cook food wrapped in aluminum foil. You can cook certain items that don’t roast well in this manner, such as potatoes, as well as other different kinds of vegetables. If you have an iron pan, you can place the pan on the coals to make food such as pancakes. I know that pancakes might seem like a counterintuitive menu item given that we are talking about foods that require minimal preparation, but if you use dried pancake mix that requires you to add only water, the process is rather simple. Simply mix the water and pancake mix in a plastic bag and then poor it onto the griddle, flipping the pancakes until both sides are done.

Cooking with boiling water is also quite practical. By boiling water in a pan, you can cook many different types of roots and vegetables, softening them up and making them easier to chew and digest. You can also use boiling water to cook eggs without the messy cleanup, giving you a good source of protein.

  • Break each egg into a Ziploc bag.
  • After sealing the bag, use your fingers to scramble the eggs.
  • At this point, you can add any bits of meat, cheese or vegetables that you would normally put in an omelet.
  • Seal the bag again and drive a stick through it so that you can suspend the bag in the boiling pot of water.

In about 5 minutes, you will have a scrambled egg omelet, without any pans to wash, and a pot of sterilized water to do with as you see fit.

You can of course also use either of these methods to cook with, or heat up canned food. A simple corned beef hash can be made from canned beef, canned corn and flecks of potato fried together in a skillet over a campfire. You can also use the skillet to heat up canned soups – although be mindful of the sodium content in those soups and what that can do to your water consumption. With matches, an iron skillet, a good knife and a can opener, you can make the most of your minimal supplies and create a varied diet that will keep you going on the trail.