We all like to show off our expertise. When thrust into nature, who doesn’t love to show off the little tidbit of know-how they learned on a nature documentary or even the most recent season of Survivor? While educational programming can teach us a lot about navigating nature and some important survival skills for tackling the big bad woods, sometimes entertainment doesn’t equal accurate.
A lot of information that we see about wild animals on television and movies is straight up wrong. Sometimes it’s because of a broken telephone of misinformation, or a case of new research revealing something completely different. Other times it’s because the truth is far less sexy or entertaining than reality.
For example, just because birds and squirrels can eat particular berries or mushrooms, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t make us very sick, or even kill us.
The next time you venture out into the wilderness take a moment to realize that a lot of your “know-how” is completely wrong. Here are 15 ways that common myths about wild animals could get you killed, so get out your notebooks, and let’s all put on our scout hats and learn some real survival skills.
15. Running Away In A Zig Zag Pattern From Gators & Crocs
Gators and crocodiles are most dangerous when you encounter them in the water. Their ambush style of attack catches most of their prey unaware as they inflict their infamous death roll. While most don’t escape an attack when they’re in the water, on land humans have a much better chance of escaping a chase. For whatever reason, people have been taught to run away from gators and crocodiles in a zig zag pattern. This is because the reptiles have short, low legs and they are thought of as having difficulty turning quickly. This is a complete waste of energy and could lead someone to trip and fall instead of getting away. Speed is the key here, since the reptiles won’t be able to keep their pace up for long once on land. Save the zig zag pattern and your life for your next game of tag instead.
14. Suck The Poison Out Of A Snake Bite
As much as we like to think of ourselves as urban cowboys, acting like a cowboy when you get a snake bite is a waste of time that could lead to a deadly infection. If a snake bites you, the venom will enter your bloodstream almost instantly. Although it may look cool in the movies to cut an X over the bite and put your mouth on it to suck the poison out, you’re really doing more harm than good. Sucking poison out of this X cut will expose the open wound to a world of bacteria care of your mouth. This could also distribute the venom to the mouth and esophagus, which is also problematic. The best post-bite treatment is keeping the heart rate of the person who’s been bit low, and holding the bitten limb below the heart while you head directly to the hospital for real medical treatment.
13. Dolphins Will Come To A Human’s Aid
No matter how much humans love dolphins, they need to realize that dolphins aren’t their buddies. The quote from Douglas Adam’s book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describing the message that the dolphins left for the humans when they departed earth before it was destroyed, “So long and thanks for all the fish” is pretty accurate. Dolphins are wild carnivorous animals. Dolphins swim next to boats because they’re riding the boats’ wake to preserve energy, not because they’re saying hello. If you ever attempt to swim with wild dolphins you may find out that you get bitten or injured, because they are wild animals who have been known to kill their own babies and target the babies of other species. Dolphins are horny creatures who periodically confront human swimmers with their sexual advances, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.
12. Seeing Red Makes Bulls Attack
Bulls used in bullfights are bred from a really aggressive breed and are conditioned in a way that makes sudden movement cause them to get agitated and attack. The show Myth Busters has proven that bulls have no preference or “grudge” against a particular colour, but they are attracted by the movement of the cape from the matador. No colour is going to change a bull’s mind on whether or not they want to attack you, so just steer clear. The colour red is nothing more than a tradition. It also helps hide the blood from the bull to the crowd during the fight, which points out the cruelty of the tradition. It’s best to avoid contact with bulls if you can. However if you have to go into the same area as a bull, bring a weapon like a thick stick, axe handle, or baseball bat. If the bull charges, run or jump the nearest fence gate, climb a tree, or if you can’t get away hit the bull across the face or muzzle as hard as you physically can with your weapon.
11. Escape A Shark By Hiding Behind A Jellyfish
While playing hide and seek with a shark may seem like a good idea, it’s probably best to fight it, or try to escape as quickly as possible instead. There is a random myth out there that states you can avoid a shark attack by hiding inside a jellyfish. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First what are the odds of a jellyfish being around at the same time a shark attacks? Second, shark skin is super tough, second only to their teeth, so it could likely swim on while you’re writhing in jellyfish induced pain. Finally, if the shark swam into the jellyfish with its eyes first, it might slow them, but that’s unlikely. Another note, when you get back on the beach, don’t treat your stings with urine – salt water is actually better for the sting than a golden shower.
10. Bears Can’t Run Downhill Or Climb Trees
Evolution has to be pretty harsh on bears for them to live in forests and hilly terrain, but still be completely unable to run down a hill. Bears are capable of running as fast as 60 kilometres an hour, a speed they can attain up hill, downhill or wherever. For a short distance a bear can even outrun a racehorse. Black bears actually like trees, so if you climb a tree in hope of escaping from a black bear you may soon have company. Bears have been known to kill one another by throwing each other out of trees when fighting. Grizzlies are also able to climb a tree if they’re so inclined, however they’re a little slower than black bears, so you’ll have some additional time to really think about your impending death.
9. Defeat A Shark By Punching It In The Nose
The media has led us all to believe that the best way to fight off a shark attack is by punching it in the face. This logic is flawed in a couple of ways. First, your punch is less powerful, and slower under water, and second you’re aiming your arm alarmingly close to the shark’s mouth which is filled with razor sharp teeth. If you ever find yourself face to face in a fight for your life against a shark, aim your punches for the gills and/or eyes since predators will go for self-preservation when their breathing or vision is compromised. And remember, for the most part, sharks aren’t that interested in humans. Statistically people are more likely to be injured by a toilet or hit by a comet than get attacked by a shark.
8. You Should Always Play Dead In A Bear Attack
The best thing to do if you’re out in the wilderness and spot a bear is to quietly back away. If you’re on a camp site or your property, you should make yourself appear as large as possible and make loud noises to hopefully scare off your friendly neighbourhood bear. If there’s an actual attack, what you need to do depends on the type of bear, which may be hard to identify when they’re charging right at you. A brown or a grizzly bear usually attacks in defence of itself or its cubs. If the bear makes contact you can lay on your stomach and put your hands over your neck, but if it attacks, predatory or otherwise, fight back as if your life depended on it, because it literally does.
7. A Gun Is Your Best Defense Against A Bear
Out in the wilderness carrying a gun can provide a person with a false sense of security. They automatically feel safer because they are carrying a rifle, because they are “the hunter” when the results could end up more like an episode of Looney Tunes. Someone’s odds of obtaining a serious injury from a charging grizzly bear doubles when shots are fired, compared to someone using bear spray instead. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reports that people who used the spray had shorter attacks with less serious injuries compared to those who selected a firearm defence. Another important note. Don’t use pepper spray as a cologne or deterrent around your camp because bears are attracted to the stuff. (When spraying it at them during an attack you’ll want to aim for their eyes and nose to make them back off).
6. Don’t Make Eye Contact With A Lion
When you’ve made contact with the king of the jungle, you might be tempted to lower your eyes and pay your terrified respect, don’t. In order to have the best chances of surviving a run-in with a lion you’ll want to make direct eye contact with them and enter a staring contest where you won’t break it. Never turn your back on the lion, and never run. Lions tend to do one or two ‘practice’ charges before they actually attack and will run towards a person and then suddenly stop just a few steps away. If this happens make yourself look as big as possible and make a lot of noise while throwing your arms out. Most of the time this will make them reconsider attacking you and run away.
5. Stare A Leopard Down
Leopards don’t like it when you stare, so never, ever make direct eye contact with one since they view this as you ‘challenging them’. They’re sort of like that guy at the bar who’s had one too many shots of whiskey and wants to fight. Stand very still and hopefully they’ll back off. If they decide to come after you and attack, note they are inconsistent in terms of mock versus real charges, so you’ll want to make yourself look big, brave, and make a lot of noise. Since leopards compete for their food with other predators they prefer a silent kill so no one else hears what they’re up to and tries to steal their dinner. So don’t be afraid to make a lot of noise to make this wild beast change their mind on how tasty you look.
4. Run Away From Wild Dogs
A human isn’t going to win in a foot race against wild dogs, so running isn’t really an option. Wild dogs are territorial creatures who live with and hunt in large packs. If you come across a wild dog, or wild dogs, you’ll have to stand and fight for your life with all of your might. You need to clench your hands into fists and shout in a loud and authoritative manner, but avoid making direct contact. You’ll need to kick and punch. If it manages to get you to the ground remember to protect your throat and the back of your neck with your arms. The best option when you’re face to face on the ground is jabbing the dog in the eye to make them back off.
3. Spiders Want To Bite You
Spiders are creepy and crawly. A lot of people are naturally afraid of them, but the odds of being bitten by a spider are a lot smaller than you might think. Most bites that people believe to be spider bites are from other arthropods and insects. Chris Buddle, an arachnologist (someone who studies spiders) says, “I’ve been handling spiders for almost 20 years, and I’ve never been bitten. You really have to work to get bitten by a spider, because they don’t want to bite you.” Spiders are not offensive creatures and are more afraid of humans than we are of them. A large number of spiders aren’t even physically capable of puncturing a human’s skin. There are around 40,000 spider species in the world, and only a dozen can seriously harm the average adult human, so relax! Treat a spider bite by washing with soap and water, apply a cold compress, and then go to the doctor.
2. Animals Are Super Sensitive To Menstruation Blood
Some believe that sharks can smell out a single drop of blood in the ocean from many miles away. While sharks have a fantastic sense of smell, it’s not that good. In 1967, when two women were fatally attacked by a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park, Montana, investigators discovered that one woman was on her period and the other was carrying tampons. After this event, many wildlife agencies began warning women everywhere that their time of the month was not the best time to visit the great outdoors. This has likely had women planning their vacations around their monthly cycles a little more closely. Current research indicates that menstruation will not increase the chances of a black bear or grizzly bear attack, although it is suggested that women use tampons instead of pads and dispose of them by burning them and then ‘packing out’ the remains of the feminine products.
1. The Most Dangerous Bear Attacks Occur When You Get Between A Mother Black Bear & Her Cubs
Black bears are well aware of their environment. If they sense danger for their babies they will put them in a tree to keep them safe. This means it’s very unlikely that a human will come between a momma black bear and her cubs, avoiding the whole debacle in the first place. Grizzly bears, however are more likely to see you as a threat since they don’t tree their kin, so they may perceive a human as a threat and will likely do a simple bluff charge without physical contact to make you back off. Do whatever you can to show this momma bear that you’re not a threat by being quiet, making yourself seem smaller, and slowly backing away.
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