Tag: wilderness

Summer Vacation Threats — Wild Animals


WildlifeTravel to a place you haven’t been before often tops the list of vacation destinations.

And a glimpse of a wild animal you’ve never seen outside a zoo might make that vacation truly memorable.

Still, an “up close and personal” experience with a bear (mountain lion, coyote, wolf, bison, snake, alligator, etc.) may turn out to be more than you bargained for.

Five general guidelines for protecting yourself from dangerous wild animal attacks.


First rule – “Maintain situational awareness!”

We’ve talked before about the dangers of wandering city streets with your attention focused on your cell phone. Paying attention to your surroundings is just as important in the woods or on safari or surfing. Your “vacation paradise” may be the hunting grounds for wild animals — and you could become the prey.

So, know before you arrive what you might expect, and be on the lookout with every step.

Second rule – Avoidance is the best defense.

Unless you are a professional hunter, or perhaps a professional photographer, the safest vacation will be one where you never even see a dangerous animal up close.

Most wild animals will avoid you if given the chance.

Some ways to improve your chances of keeping wild animals at a safe distance:

• Avoid areas where dangerous wild animals have been seen or attacks have happened. This includes keeping hands or feet out of water where alligators may swim, and keeping entirely out of water where sharks have been seen. Check local reports – you may decide to change camping plans at the last minute.
• Make some noise as you hike or travel. Consider wearing bells or other noisemakers to let animals know you’re coming. (More on that. Keep reading.)
• Vacation with a group. Jog or bike with partners; don’t leave children or pets alone in a campground or let them wander off by themselves.

Third rule – Animal babies are NOT cute.

We pretty much know this by now, but any mother will viciously defend her baby. Many deaths from bear attacks have been because people got between cubs and their mother. Make sure your children understand this rule!

Fourth rule – Hunger drives behavior.

More and more homes are being built in areas that used to belong to wild animals. Climate changes are driving animals closer to human habitation, too.

This means that the traditional sources of food for predators – namely, other smaller wild animals – may have disappeared. Where else can they turn?  To humans.

Bears, coyotes, mountain lions or cougars and alligators can be attracted by garbage. Make sure trash containers are animal-proof, sealed and sturdy. If you’re camping, keep food out of easy reach of wild animals (hang it away from your sleeping area). And for heaven’s sake, don’t take food into a tent with you!

Pet food? Same idea. Small animals may be attracted to the pet food – and in turn may attract larger animals like bears or mountain lions.

If you come across a dead animal, or other stash of food, it may be planned lunch for a larger animal – and that animal may be just out of sight. Don’t let the “owner” think you’re about to steal that meal!

If hungry enough, wild animals may consider people as potential food, too. While attacks are very infrequent, they happen and with grisly results.

Once again, remember the basic rules. Be aware. Hike or bike in groups. Make enough noise that animals won’t be surprised to see you appear around the corner. If you accidentally come across a wild animal, stay calm and back slowly away. Don’t run! Give the animal an escape route. Keep it in sight as you move away, but avoid eye contact, as that is considered a sign of aggression.

Fifth rule – If you are attacked, fight for your life.

The only animals you might be able to outrun are moose. (They don’t see you as food so they give up once they’ve chased you away.)

You might be able to climb a tree to escape a coyote or wolf, but bears and cougars can come right up after you.

If you are being stalked or are confronted . . .
• A coyote can be scared away by noise or aggression. Hold your arms out, open your coat, put a child on your shoulders. Be noisy, look BIG!
• A pack of coyotes may NOT be frightened by your actions. Call for help and get your back against a wall and be prepared to defend yourself from quick attacks aimed at your feet and legs. Use whatever weapons you have. Aim for the animals’ eyes.
Wolf attacks are the rarest of all large predator attacks. Wolves are wary of humans and not aggressive toward them by nature, and if one attacks it’s probably because it has been fed by humans, or is sick. As with a single coyote, be noisy and look BIG, and – unusual for dealing with wild animals – maintain eye contact.
Cougar or mountain lion attacks are also very rare. If looking BIG and threatening doesn’t frighten the cougar away, and it attacks, you must fight back using whatever you have: a stick, backpack, water bottle, shovel or bare hands.
Bears really don’t like people, and they are likely to detect you and leave the area a lot sooner than you will detect them. Should you suddenly surprise a black bear, though, remain calm and do not run. Tell the bear to get away (thus letting it know you are a human). It may make a “fake charge” and then stop. If the bear attacks, fight back immediately and forcefully.
Grizzly bears, like other predators, will defend their territory, their young or their food. If you threaten any of these, they may attack, but if you remove yourself as a threat, they will likely calm down. One way to “remove the threat” is by playing dead – if you have the discipline. If a grizzly sees you as prey, however, it may keep coming. (Note – “Playing dead” seems to work with grizzlys, but not with other bears.)

Weapons for self-defense against wild animals.

Avoiding encounters with wild animals is the best defense. However, if you are trespassing on their territory, it’s best to be prepared with weapons for self-defense.

These weapons can range from firearms to a big knife to a club or walking stick or to pepper spray or bear spray. In every case, you need to have practiced with your weapons so you can reach them quickly and surely. Again, keep reading for a recommendation about bear spray.

Good items to add to your vacation planning list.

If you’re planning a wilderness vacation trip, consider adding these items to your list. They are relatively inexpensive and could actually save your life.

  • Smart camping items

Keep food and food garbage from attracting animals by storing it in odor-barrier bags and/or in bear-resistant containers. Here are examples available at Amazon. (Obviously, you want to dispose of the bags in animal-resistant trash containers.) The bags cost less than $15 for assorted sizes. The plastic, shatter-proof container comes in 4-day or 7-day sizes (weighs around 2 pounds) and costs between $70 and $80 as I write this. Click on the links or images for full details.

BaseCamp Odor-Barrier Bag, Assorted

Bear Vault BV500 Bear Resistant Food Canister

  • Smart hiking items

Let animals know you are coming by wearing bells. This one comes in a variety of finishes (black, chrome, red) and because it costs around $5 is considered an “add on” at Amazon. (The magnetic silencer feature allows you to “turn it off” when you’re not out on the trail.)

Bear Bell w/ Silencer

If you find yourself in a tough spot, you may want to make more noise with a whistle. Again, these are inexpensive additions to your day pack and will give you peace of mind.

ZITRADES 3pcs Emergency Hiking Camping Survival Aluminum Whistle Key Chain With Red/Green/Blue Color

Now for the bear spray. If you’ve read our Advisories for a while, you will have come across a couple of articles about pepper spray for personal safety. THIS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER’S PEPPER SPRAY. It is not meant for that mugger standing 4 feet from you. Bear Spray has extra powerful pepper. The container lays down a cloud of spray well before the bear gets to you — at 25-30 feet.  Start shooting in time, and aim low to get it into the bear’s eyes and nose. (Get a large can of spray to be sure you don’t run out before the bear runs away.)

You must have INSTANT ACCESS to spray to make it useful. Wear it in a holster at your chest or waist, and practice drawing and shooting BEFORE you need it. (Recycle a partially used can responsibly.)

Frontiersman Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster- Easy Access, Max Strength – 9.2 oz -Industry Max 35-Foot Range

Don’t think this is everything you need to know!

Different parts of the country experience different wild animal problems. Before you make final plans for your vacation, take the time to check in with experts from the area.

For example,

  • The U.S. Forest Service issues warnings regarding bear encounters.  Google the area where you are heading with the words “bear attacks.”
  • Parks may have special websites all about their wildlife, including ways to interact safely. At http://www.yellowstonepark.com/bear-spray-matters/  you can get info about local conditions and how to purchase or even rent bear spray.
  • Specialty websites are a great source of information about particular animal behavior. A generic resource site can be found at http://westernwildlife.org

As with all threats, the more you know, and the better prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to avoid a disaster.

Enjoy your summer vacation!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

We can dream, can’t we?


Ah, for a wilderness retreat.

You may have guessed by now that Joe and I live in a community surrounded by other communities running up and down the coast of Southern California. Over 22 million people whose view of mountains is often just a brownish-gray haze over the top of multiple freeways. As for forests and rivers – well, you’ve heard of the California drought, too, right?

What this means is that OUR normal notion of “survival” really doesn’t include camping, hunting or fishing. For most of us, even the notion of back-yard farming is out of the question. (There’s that drought I mentioned.)

Living vicariously

So, I live vicariously through other survival blogs and my monthly Popular Mechanics, which seems to feature survival in 3 out of every 4 issues! Oh, how those photos of lush greenery make me envious! And the “how-to” survival ideas remind me of earlier days, when I tagged after my brothers as they earned Boy Scout merit badges. (Starting a fire with a bow was one of the biggest challenges, I recall.)

Anyway, a recent issue carried this title story: “How to Survive On Your Own – Make your own power, grow your own food, and other secrets to the new self-sufficiency – Page 55.”

So I thought I’d highlight a few things, in case you missed it . . .! (You won’t find all these items at Amazon, but if there’s a link, click to get the current pricing.)

Some slick survival equipment

The multi-page feature article started with wonderful tips about cast-iron equipment for the off-grid cookitems I’ll probably never use but that I’d like to try! (There’s such a satisfying feeling to the finish and heft of just about anything made of cast iron.)

  • A cast-iron grain mill ($1,100) for making flour and grinding seeds.
  • An 8-quart fruit press ($200) will handle berries, too.
  • The 11.75 in. Le Creuset enameled cast-iron skillet ($285) is something I MIGHT use. I admire Le Creuset pots but they’re heavy. The one in the magazine article has two handles so you can pick it up more easily. I’d still probably opt for a smaller size, maybe this one – cherry red, of course. Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet, 10-1/4-Inch, Cerise (Cherry Red)

But then I got to some other survival items that I would definitely try:

A manual washing machine – a 5 lb, hand-cranked machine great for delicates or small loads in an apartment and, of course, for camping. As long as you can hang things up to dry, it sounds like a terrific – and resource saving – idea, don’t you agree? The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Non-electric Portable Compact Mini Washing Machine

A heavy-weight shovel that turns out to be a multi-tool – adjust the angle for chopping, digging or sawing, and it even has a fire starter embedded in the handle. I need a shovel for my car kit – I am particularly attracted by the case for this one from FiveJoy. The image shows the whole package.  (Note – this is the RS and not the C1): FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool (RS) – Tactical Entrenching Tool w/ Case for Camping Backpacking Hiking Car Snow – Heavy Duty, Multifunctional, Portable, Compact Emergency Kit Survival GearA pre-made, off-grid house! No tent for me – how about a self-contained pod that makes its own electricity, collects rainwater, deals with waste, etc.? The article described three different models (only one had a waste processor) costing from $87,600 (ecocapsure.sk) to “$400,000-$500,000.” (acredesigns.com). Sorry, no direct link to Amazon on these!

And then, there was the section called “Entertainment.”

It focused on making sure you have plenty of power for games and movies on your various devices. (After all, we’re talking survival here!) I already own solar panels, and recommend Goal Zero for even the most inexperienced survivalist.

Solar panels plugged into a power pack can charge your phone or tablet to give you the power you need for entertainment or connecting to civilization. There are many permutations of (1) panel/s + (2) powerpack/battery + maybe (3) inverter + device, but Goal Zero seems to have done a good job of making sturdy, convenient and handy combinations. We own a number of the components.

Here’s a Goal Zero kit that you could consider as a starter, for hiking or camping. Charge from the sun, by plugging into the wall, or into your car. The image shows the foldable solar panel with the battery and attached inverter. Many people add an extra 20W panel to give it more capability. Goal Zero 42011 Sherpa 100 Solar Recharging Kit

One family’s story

Still deep in the magazine, turn the page and you come to a personal story about confidence, creativity and survival in Smith Henderson’s article about his childhood and his family living in Montana. The story includes an intriguing mixture of danger (forest fire), hard work (filling the woodshed, canning and pickling and jamming to fill the cellar) and the best of modern survival gear. Again, for example:

Henderson’s father’s hunting bow with “complex sighting system, soloCam and arrows that flange outward.” As a kid I had a bow (and slingshot, and crossbow) so for fun, I took a look at several articles about real hunting bows, and learned a lot about draw-weight, draw-length, speed, weight, noise and vibration. Here’s a medium-priced single cam bow at Amazon that got a solid recommendation. PSE Archery Prophcy Skllwks CamoLH70.  (Nothing like what you remember from your childhood, eh?)

Can’t finish my Advisory without a nod to Smith Henderson himself, who published a first novel in 2014 — set where else but in Montana? — and which won all sorts of awards. Check it out:  Fourth of July Creek: A Novel

And a philosophical touch

I found the best piece in this whole feature buried in the section called “You need books.” It was a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and it can pretty much apply to all our Advisories at Emergency Plan Guide.

As we dream, and make plans for acquiring wonderful new survival gear, we need equally to make plans for acquiring new knowledge, being open to new attitudes and learning new skills.

For as Thoreau says,

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

Thanks to Popular Mechanics for its continued emphasis on do-it-yourself self-sufficiency.

What about you? What’s a favorite resource of yours? Let us know in the comments!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team