It’s a wild world out there. Especially in the current landscape of global pandemic, constant vigilance is key to staying safe. And as you work to protect yourself from everyday circumstances and unpredictable events alike, don’t overlook the animal kingdom.
The unfortunate reality is that animal attacks occur more than most like to imagine. Whether you’re at home, at a park, or in the wilderness, there’s always a possibility that Mother Nature could bite back. Animal attacks can happen anywhere, even in major metropolitan areas.
For instance, in a story that at first glance sounds fictional, a string of squirrel attacks was reported in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, in late December 2020. One woman who was bitten sought treatment in a local emergency room and received a rabies shot as a precaution. It’s unclear how many squirrels were attacking residents or why.
Although the chances of a similar attack may be slim, the threat of animal attacks remains a tangible possibility. No matter your geographic location, there are ways in which you can protect yourself from aggressive animals, whether squirrels, domestic pets, insects, or large mammals such as bears. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared in the event of a negative animal interaction.
Inherent Dangers in the Animal Kingdom
In many situations, aggressive animal behavior is understood and can be avoided. For example, most humans associate a hornet’s nest with aggressive insects and the potential for a painful sting. Thus, they have the wits to steer clear of the nest. Yet an animal can become aggressive for myriad reasons — fear, protection of young, or even hormones.
But just how deadly is the animal kingdom? It’s impossible to say for certain. The number of people bitten by animals and insects on an annual basis cannot be accurately determined, as many bite victims eschew medical treatment. What we do know is that, between 2008-2015, there were 1,610 animal-related fatalities reported across the U.S.
There is an encouraging flipside to the data, however. Researchers from Stanford University also determined that a significant number of deaths from animal encounters are potentially avoidable. This is especially the case for non-venomous animal attacks, which account for 57% of deaths.
Threats from Man’s Best Friend
It’s important to note that the wild world isn’t the only source of potentially negative animal interactions. Dog bites are an unfortunately common occurrence across the U.S., despite the prevalence of leash laws in various municipalities. When you’re walking in urban areas, always be mindful of any dogs in the vicinity, and the amount of control their owner has over them.
According to legal professionals, when unleashed dogs are startled, they may bite. Further, a leash may not make a difference if you encounter a vicious canine in the company of a negligent owner. Domestic dogs are considered vicious if they have caused severe injury or death to another living creature, human or otherwise.
When you encounter a dog in public, remain calm and cautious. Never approach a dog you’re unfamiliar with, and always ask the owner’s permission before petting or otherwise interacting with his or her dog.
Staying Safe, on the Homefront and in the Wild
If you’re a fan of the great outdoors and spend your free time hiking, camping, fishing, or rock climbing, you must always be prepared for an animal encounter. Outdoor enthusiasts should always carry some form of deterrent, such as a whistle, bear mace or pepper spray, or
And whether you’re deep in the woods or on your property, pay close attention to your surroundings, and leave no trace. Keep a lookout in all directions, not only directly in front of you. And listen carefully, noting any strange sounds, including pockets of silence, scratching, and howling.
In a homestead setting, sounds are of particular importance. If you’re bothered by animal noises that are too close to home, possibly originating in your walls, it could indicate a pest infestation. And many pests that can invade a home, from raccoons to insects, are also dangerous and can bite you or a family member unprovoked.
At home or on the go, if you’re the unlikely victim of a squirrel attack, get stung by a bee or wasp, or suffer a serious animal bite, medical attention may be required. For this reason, even the most experienced outdoor adventurer should avoid camping or hiking alone. When you’re safely in a group, it’s easier to stave off an animal attack. Conversely, if an animal interaction turns negative and you are severely bitten or stung, having a partner can mean the difference between life and death.
Knowing how to identify potentially dangerous situations involving animals is an essential survival skill that can be practiced in any setting. But vigilance can only get you so far; whether you’re homesteading off-grid or traversing the streets of a big city, be ready for anything, and carry some sort of deterrent to scare off any rabid squirrels or aggressive, unleashed dogs you may encounter.
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