In the safety and comfort of our own homes, it’s easy to watch nature programs or wildlife shows on TV and make remarks about the wide eyes, wet noses, and cuddly personalities of some of nature’s biggest and strongest inhabitants. However, these “cute and cuddly” animals like wild cats, bears, and wolves pose an extreme threat to the life of the outdoor survivor and have been known to inflict deadly bodily harm to those who do not know how to properly avoid and defend themselves in the wild. Self-defense, whether from the natural elements or from nature’s predators, is an essential skill-set to have before attempting to survive out in the wild for any point of time, and in any type of environment.
Self-Defense – the 4th Pillar of Survival
Here, we’ll discuss the best methods of self-defense when surviving outdoors, and will ensure that you complete your time in the wild with a much higher chance of avoiding an injury or a potentially fatal situation.
The first and most critical skill that you will need to incorporate into your self-defense strategy is basic common sense. If you see a wild animal from afar, do not approach it. Do not make loud noises or do anything to cause attention to yourself if you are in the proximity of a wild animal or a group of wild animals. Most especially, if you see a wild animal with its young, do everything possible to make yourself invisible, quiet, and far away from these animals, as they will be feeling very territorial and protective of the young.
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Common sense also includes refusing to live in denial about your circumstances, or the types of animals that exist and live in the environment in which you are surviving. Denial and naivety, or thinking “this could never happen to me” are perhaps the two most dangerous weaknesses that a survivor could have when living outdoors. This mentality is an instant weakness to your self-defense skill set, as it will leave you completely unprepared for a potential encounter with any type of animal.
You’ve heard it said in sports, and it holds true in the wild: the best defense is a good offense. While in sports this saying is meant to describe aggression and assertion, in survival life it means quite the opposite; your best offense is a proactive and conscious avoidance of all large wildlife at all costs. Keeping your distance is certainly one of the main factors in avoiding contact with wildlife, but there are proactive steps you can take that will also ensure that animals cannot sense and seek you out.
These include keeping a clean camp; wash all cutlery and dishes thoroughly after eating. Seal uneaten food in airtight containers, or suspend it away from sleeping areas. Treat your garbage and waste the way you would treat any type of food; you should store or suspend garbage like you would with food until you can move it away from that area or dispose of it altogether. Change your clothes after you’ve cooked dinner, and store the ones with any food residue or lingering smell away from your sleeping area. Wild animals have heightened senses of smell and can seek you out from miles away simply from the smell of campfire and food that happens to remain on your shirt.
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Avoidance tactics are the easiest and most practical steps to take when defending yourself in the wild. However, circumstances may occur where you are faced up close with an animal and you will have to force it to leave in some manner. Below we will discuss the main types of animals you might encounter, and how to best ward them off in a potential attack situation:
- Do not run away. This will trigger an attack response in the bear. Instead, make all movements slow and deliberate, and walk away backward slowly and quietly with your front facing the animal.
- Avoid direct eye contact with the bear, as that is considered a threat of attack.
- If the bear is far enough away, make loud noises by banging pots and pans together. This will startle the bear and cause it to retreat. However, do not attempt this tactic if you are in very close proximity with the animal.
- Once again, if the bear is far enough away, raise your arms over your head and make large movements to seem bigger and stronger. However, if you are in close proximity, you should submit by lying face down on the ground and pretending to be dead. Both of these methods have been known to cause the bear to retreat.
Mountain lions and cougars
- Do not run. Stand up tall and straight, and try to appear larger than the cougar.
- Do not crouch, try to hide, or submit.
- Maintain eye contact with the animal and never run.
- If the animal displays signs of aggressive behavior such as snarling, moving closer, or lowering itself to the ground with ears flattened to the head, you should make noise by shouting, throwing rocks, and acting larger.
Wolves or coyotes
- Never run. These animals can reach running speeds of 30 mph. You will get caught.
- Yell at the animal to make it back off.
- Always maintain your footing. If you fall to the ground, you are essentially submitting to the animal and surrendering to be its prey.
Ultimately, being proactive, aware, and cautious are the best tools one can use when practicing self-defense in the wild. It is helpful to be armed in some way – anything from pepper spray to a firearm can ward off a predator. Stay aware, stay away, and stay alive!
Last update on 2019-03-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API