We are not alone when in nature. Careless mistakes or being unaware can result in serious problems. It is important to be prepared for Nature’s surprises.
Whenever we trek into the outdoors, things can get dangerous quickly. While we are hunting for a critter, fish, picture, adventure or just for some fun, things can be hunting us as well.
Risk is related to the habitat within the predators range. Montana does not have exclusive rights to bears, coyotes, wolves and lion adventures.. Waterways serve as travel corridors for all critters and attract people as well. Agriculture and dumps are food buffets for critters. In Maryland and other states, baiting for deer is legal. Many folks like to feed the critters as pets but this also attracts other opportunistic carnivores as well. These circumstances tend to increase opportunity for an encounter of a dangerous kind.
I hunted a snowy western Maryland this deer season and saw coyotes, black bears and mountain lions. I discovered huge bear and lion tracks following in my earlier tracks made the same day. Western Maryland is a more rural and wilderness setting than other parts of the state. Sure we don’t have Grizzlies any more in Maryland, but a Big Black Bear or Mountain Lion can ruin your day just as fast.
We seem to have an insatiable appetite for fun, food and fellowship that takes us into the great outdoors. For some folks, critters sing songs and live in a fantasy world. Years of Disney cartoons and movies teach the wrong message. Winnie the Pooh likes honey but is a Carnivore as well!
Critters have to eat too. As the Predator population grows, so do the chances for a close encounter. The human body is a fragile thing. Basically we are bags of water with a boney skeleton frame. Claws and Jaws can puncture our “bags” easily. Humans are also known as Prey!
It is important to be alert and use our senses when out in the wilds. Our sense of sight, smell, hearing and reasoning are essential to maintain safety.
“Common Sense” is the most important advantage humans have. Don’t overlook the obvious clues. Tracks, scat, and smells are obvious signposts that show where the bears, wolves, lions and coyotes have been. Kill sites, food sources and thick cover are places to avoid or be more aware.
As “Tourists”, we occasionally wander into the critters living and dining rooms. We must always be prepared and plan so we don’t end up on the menu. Smaller pets and children could be at risk. Bear spray, bells, and weapons can be important safety tools whenever you are in the wilderness.
Seasonal awareness is also important. During warmer conditions, snakes, insects and other critters are potential risks. Startling or surprising a wild critter can end badly for the Human or pet.
The mountains of western Maryland are just as steep and rough as the Rockies especially when you add some snowy or rough weather. When the weather turns harsh, humans can show signs that they are struggling, slower or tiring. These signs are exactly the behaviors the predators are targeting. Animal packs work together to kill larger prey. Mountain lions are rarely seen until it is too late. Bears are simply bigger, stronger and hungrier. All of these predators are equipped to kill and eat any available prey.
Hunters and outdoorsmen often carry a gun, pepper spray, knife or bow when hunting. Using them accurately or effectively when being surprised or ambushed by a predator, that is trying to kill and eat you, is a completely different matter. Humans are simply “fast food” to a hungry, fanged, toothed and clawed carnivorous eating machine.
Outdoor adventure is a wonderful way to enjoy and appreciate nature. Knowledge is an important tool we need to help us keep safe when in the “living rooms” of predators and harmful critters. The odds are certainly in your favor that you will not have a close encounter with danger but……. Don’t become a statistic!
(Written by Montana Grant; Photos via Montana Grant)