How to Survive a Deadly Animal Attack in North America

Many survival activities such as fire starting and hunting can be done on your own terms and in controlled settings. But when it comes to facing a deadly wild animal, how you react in that critical moment will make all the difference. It’s therefore essential to become acquainted with the types of animal you might come across in your country and how best to deal with them.

This post takes a look at some of the dangerous animals you might encounter in North America and offers tips on what to do in those situations. Don’t take one blog post as the gospel, though; be sure to read a range of sources on and offline to get a balanced perspective.

Grizzly and Black Bears

bearFound across the United States and Canada, bears are big, fast, and incredibly dangerous. They kill around 20 people per year. The most vital thing to do in a bear attack situation is identify the type of bear:

Grizzly Bears

  • Distinctive shoulder hump
  • Shoulder hump is higher than rump
  • Short, rounded ears
  • Long claws (up to four inches)

American Black Bears

  • No shoulder hump
  • Rump is higher than shoulders
  • Taller, more pointed ears
  • Short claws (up to two inches)

The general rule is that grizzlies are brown, while black bears are black. However, grizzlies can be black and black bears can be brown or even blond, which can make things pretty confusing.

Surviving a Bear Attack

It’s commonly agreed you should play dead if attacked by a grizzly, and fight back against a black bear. You may be able to scare it off by making yourself appear bigger – raise your hands and widen your stance.

If the bear charges, you’ll likely not have time to use any weapon. Even the fastest crossbow or quickest gun will likely be too slow (read crossbow reviews to find out for yourself). Running will cause it to instantly see you as prey, and it will chase you. If the bear does attack, use special bear pepper spray, or play dead, keeping your head covered. If you have to fight back, aim for its sensitive nose, and try to make it attack you uphill.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

snakeAlthough deaths from snakebites are few in the US, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake has a fearsome reputation. These reptiles can grow up to seven feet long and can be foul-tempered if provoked. Their venom is hemotoxic, which means it affects the blood, causing extreme pain and possible long-term tissue damage.

If you come across one, carefully and slowly back away from it. If it is coiled with its head raised and its tail rattling, it intends to strike.

Surviving a Rattlesnake Bite

If you are bitten, get away from the snake and then move as little as possible. Lie down and keep the bitten limb lower than your heart. Apply a bandage above and below the bite (unless this means binding either side of a joint). This is to restrict blood flow, but do not apply them too tightly. Remove clothing, jewellery or footwear that may constrict the limb, as the bite will swell up. Do not apply ice packs as this could actually make it worse.

Coyotes and Mountain Lions

catMountain lions and coyotes can both weigh up to 200 pounds and run at speeds of 45mph. Between them they cause no more than 10 fatalities per year.

Surviving a Coyote or Mountain Lion Attack

If you are faced by either animal, playing dead or running will make them see you as prey. It will activate their hunting instincts and compel them to chase you. Your best chance of survival is to try and scare them away. Make eye contact and try to stare them down. Shout, and throw rocks if you have to. Don’t confront them or back them into a corner, though, or their only option will be to attack.

Keep Calm

A clear head is vital in surviving a deadly animal attack. Panicking will just cause you to act on auto-pilot and your prey instincts will kick in; running will simply make most predators chase you. Being able to control your fear and recall the correct course of action to take could make all the difference.

Images by Scott Calleja, Clinton and Charles Robertson, and Tony Hisgett via Flickr

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