How to Avoid Wild Animal Attacks

Wild animals are not harmless or defenseless and they can launch an attack if they feel threatened or you’ve stepped in their territory. That is why knowing how to avoid wild animal attacks is a life saving knowledge.

An animal attack can happen regardless of your location in the outdoors. Whether you are on a well-planned trek through the woods, are camping or simply taking a common stroll through a wooded park, an animal attack is possible.

Therefore, to make sure you make it safe home, I will discuss how to avoid provoking an attack first, then we’ll deal with different kind of animal attacks.

Prevention Is The Best Safety Measure

Before we talk about actually avoiding an attack, let us see how you can make sure one does not happen. Below is a simple six-question checklist to ask yourself so that you’ll know how to minimize the risk of an animal attack.

1. What is your purpose for being in the wilderness?

Are camping, hunting, fishing, working, going on a nature walk, or surviving and/or living in the wilderness? Each of these purposes can yield differing attack potentials as well as potential ways to avoid them.

It can be very beneficial to do your research on the location and the animals that are native to that area before embarking into the wilderness. As surprising as it seems, your purpose for being there could bring on or deter an animal attack.

Take hunting for example. Whether it’s for sport or survival purposes, animals can sense our fear and other intentions through the release of our hormones and pheromones.

Some believe if certain animals perceive your demeanor as careless or harmful, they will give in to their natural instinct and won’t let you out of their sight or range of hearing.

Some wild animals can even smell gunpowder and connect that smell to danger, if they met the smell before. Some predatory animals may take this as an initiation for confrontation, regardless of their size.

Hunters should not clean their kill close to where they will be sleeping. Predators will be attracted by the smell and your life will be in danger.

Other less confrontational animals tend to retreat when a perceived threat approaches. Some animals, such as snakes, will hold their ground and even attack if you continue towards them.

This leads us to another important thing to do when in the wilderness: watch where you step. For more tips on camping safety, check out my earlier piece on this life saving topic.

2. Location – What kind of animals can you find here?

You need to understand these basic principles that can help you avoid an animal attack, no matter where you are.

Know your surroundings:

  • Know the animals in this area and their behavior.
  • Have a plan of action in case of an attempted attack.
  • Have a last resort weapon of defense like loud horns, pepper spray, sticks, etc.
  • Respect their territory.
  • Remember your way out.

One thing to consider first is your location. Location can be one of the most influential factors when trying to prevent an animal attack.

If bit, you need to know the proper treatment for that attack, and that means knowing what kind of bite you’ve received. Make sure to do your research.

Based on your geographical location, consider and take note of the primary animals that may be native to that environment. It is also helpful to be aware of the animals that are the most likely to attack a human.

3. What did you bring with you?

Take inventory of everything that you have with you. Take note of things that could peak animal’s curiosity. Things like food, or pets, can put you in danger if wild animals sense these.

In many semi-wild places, local scavengers like bear, deer, raccoons and opossums are already accustomed to following humans for food. Due to prior instances of direct or indirect feeding, some have evolved to think humans are a consistent source of handouts.

Choose what you bring with you carefully and avoid feeding the animals. Most animals have a strong sense of smell, so pack your food in a type of container that mutes or hides the smell.

This could also aid in the prevention of ant attacks. When you stop and eat something, try not to drop any crumbs, or leave trash.

Maybe consider not stopping to eat, but eat while on the move. Also, make sure you have your complete first aid kit with you in any camping trip.

But when you can’t avoid facing a bear, you should have a “peace offering” ready for the animal. Keep this as a last solution, because it can turn against you if the animal want more, it will attack to get more.

In most cases, simply keeping your distance from the animals is the safest route. Being aware of your surroundings can prevent the interaction altogether.

4. Are you alone?

In some cases, being in a group in the wilderness can help ward off potential animal attack threats. When you are alone, some predators may perceive this as a weakness.

Whether you are alone or with a group of people, scuffing about through the woods loudly and conversing loudly can help scare off some predators before they are too close.

The primary objective should be to avoid direct interaction with the animals at all costs. Attempting to provoke or outrun any wild animal will potentially initiate a confrontation.

Read your surroundings and decide the most logical response based on each circumstance that arises. A simple rule to go by is to keep your distance.

If you are injured or become injured it would be a good idea to remedy the injury as soon as possible, especially if bleeding occurs. Ultimately, natural predatory instinct suggests that a bleeding animal is weakened, making it more likely that an injured person will be attacked.

5. What do you smell like?

Your personal scent can attract or deter animals in the wilderness. Your pheromones can make you a target for potential animal attack. In many cases, women have a heightened risk for harassment or attack during menstruation.

In addition, cologne, perfumes, and things like bug repellent can irritate and/or attract unwanted encounters by animals. Think of what animals you interacted with before your journey. Some predators might find you mouthwatering because of it.

6. Are You Close to a Nest or Den?

You need to know the signs that suggest the existence of different types of nests and dens, so you get as far from them as you can. Mothers protecting nests and dens are responsible for many attacks on humans.

Wild fox cubs

If you find that you are close to either of these and see the opportunity to retreat, calmly back away in the opposite direction and try to go around.

What Kind of Animals Can You Encounter in the Wilderness

Sometimes, no matter how much preparation and prevention methods are applied, an animal attack will still happen. In such a cases, you might find yourself having no choice but to defend yourself.

I’ll tell you some of the usual suspects responsible for attacks on humans, how to prevent attacks and treat the encounter in case prevention didn’t succeed.


Statistically, snakes are responsible for more human fatalities than all other animals combined.

In most circumstances, you can avoid contact with a snake by following a few quick rules.

Wild Animal Attack - Snakes


  • Know the area and potential attack suspects.
  • Wear boots and protective clothing.
  • Watch where you step and stay out of areas that snakes typically dwell.
  • If you do encounter a snake, maintain your distance.
  • Try backing away slowly.
  • Have a “snake stick” in case the snake keeps approaching or is already too close.

Treatment of Encounter:

If a snake does bite you and does not retreat after striking, you should do the following:

  • Identify the snake and try to see if it is venomous, at a distance of at least six feet.
  • Slowly move away from the snake.
  • Wrap the bite with a shirt or piece of clothing to slow venom absorption.
  • Do not attempt to suck the venom out. Contrary to popular belief, sucking the venom out of the wound does not remove the venom. Doing so can actually worsen the injury.
  • Try to keep your heart rate as neutral as possible, i.e. don’t panic. High heart rate can speed up the absorption of the venom.
  • Go to the hospital as soon as possible.


Bears are one of the largest and more dangerous land based carnivores in the world. If possible, identify the bear based on appearance and the knowledge of the typical bears for that geographical location that you should have found in your preliminary research on your location.

The polar bear is the only bear species known to hunt humans actively. There are other species like the black bear that are known to attack any time they feel threatened, whereas brown bears tend to require more provocation in order to attack.

Wild Animal Attack - Bears


  • Maintain your distance. Keep the bear out of striking distance by slowly backing away while keeping an eye on the bear.
  • If you cannot retreat without drawing more attention to yourself, in a warm and calm voice suggest aloud to the bear that you are not a threat. Some people have found it beneficial to speak to the bear saying something like, “I mean you no harm”.
  • Try to decipher what the bear is planning to do. It is possible to cross paths with a bear and one simple solution to avoid confrontation would be to move out of the way calmly, while keeping an escape route in mind.

Treatment of Encounter:

If you have no other choice and the bear is getting too close, you can try the following:

  • If the bear is some distance away, use something loud like an air horn or yell loudly to scare it off.
  • If the bear continues to come toward you, continue backing away and use pepper spray if you have it. It may be temporarily beneficial to throw a rock to try to deter the bear.
  • Appear dead by laying in fetal position. If the bear tries to flip you over, roll with it and try to remain face down.
  • Although it is best not to engage with a bear if you have no choice and your life is at risk, grab anything you can and try your best to cover your face and neck while trying to get away from the animal. Punching or kicking at the animal could worsen the attack.


Sharks, like polar bears, alligators and mountain lions, also hunt humans routinely. Whether you are surfing, boating, swimming or fishing in the sea, you should have respect for these magnificent creatures.

Sharks are attracted to blood, shiny things, and thrashing in the water among other things. They can attack for exploratory reasons, since they can’t see very well, or when they feel threatened.

The availability of food can be a cause for an attack. Like other animals, they will protect their nest areas and attack if they feel danger is present.

Wild Animal Attack - Sharks


  • Avoid getting in the water with abrasions or cuts that are actively bleeding.
  • If you are fishing, do not get in the same area of water as your chum or bait.
  • Try to avoid excessive splashing while swimming in shark-populated areas.
  • Keep an eye out for dorsal fins and disturbances on the surface of the water.
  • Watch for schools of bait-fish on the surface. Try to avoid swimming in them. Predator fish tend to follow the schools.

Treatment of Encounter:

If for some reason your attempts to stay away from the shark have proven to be ineffective and it is attacking you, there are a few things you can do to try to stop the attack.

  • Stay calm and avoid trying to flee. Movement will only make the thrashing worse.
  • Some suggest punching the shark directly on the nose or the eye. It can be difficult to see where you are punching, so make sure you don’t stick your hand in the shark’s mouth.
  • Slowly make your way out of the water, away from the shark, to stop further attacks.
  • If possible, wrap any bleeding wounds and make sure to stay away from other predators. Go immediately to the hospital.
  • Try to avoid swimming away, as raising your heart rate will increase blood flow and lessen your chances of survival.

Alligators / Crocodiles

Alligators will eat almost anything that comes within striking distance but they do not always attack humans.

Wild Animal Attack - Alligators


  • Stay out of the water where you see signs of alligators.
  • Avoid walking close to the water’s edge.
  • Look for signs like eyes or snouts poking out of the water or water disturbances.
  • If you fall in, get out of the water as quickly as possible.
  • If, for whatever reason, you are in the water, move slowly without too much splashing around.
  • If you have to swim, use smooth, graceful movements.
  • Keep food away from water’s edge.
  • If you are cleaning your kill, always watch your back and be quick about it.
  • Do not feed the alligators.

Treatment of Encounter:

  • If on land and far away, you can easily run from a crocodile or alligator.
  • If you are in the water and are attacked, get to land and make sure to move slowly, keeping an eye on the threat.
  • If the alligator is actively hunting you, look for floating debris to fend it off.
  • Try shoving a stick down the alligator’s throat
  • Once you neutralize the threat, wrap any bleeding wounds, and make your way to the hospital.
  • If you are in the alligator’s jaws, fight with everything you have. Some have survived alligator attacks by fighting back.

Wolves/Coyotes/Wild Dogs

Coyotes and wolves do not typically attack humans and will normally be on the move before you see them. However, there are some cases where you might have a run-in and need to know how to handle the situation.

Before you turn and run, think about the basic principles discussed above which are: know your surroundings, know your animal, have a plan of action, respect their territory, and remember your way out.

If you do have a face-to-face encounter with a wolf or coyote, one of the first things you should do is to decide what the intention of the animal is. Decide what type of body language they are communicating.

Is it confrontational or curious? In some cases, they may just be curious and you can make a loud noise, use an air-horn or hit a stick against a tree to try to scare them off. Try to maintain your distance and never advance towards them or run.

They will assume that you are prey and give chase. If you have food with you, try to avoid bringing attention to it.

Wild Animal Attack - Wolves


  • Avoid running in the open at night.
  • Do not advance towards the animal.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Avoid showing your teeth. Predators will think it’s a challenge.
  • Bowing your head down, is suggestive of a submissive and non-threatening demeanor.
  • Avoid being in a pack of prey animals for long periods.
  • Avoid dens.
  • If you have to eat something you hunted, clean your kill away from where you will be sleeping.

Treatment of Encounter:

If you have done everything you can to avoid a wolf or coyote attack, there’s still hope, if you keep calm.

  • Find a stick to fight your way out of the situation.
  • Get away without running so you do not provoke an escalation of an attack.
  • Guard your neck and your chest while you get away.
  • Wrap any bleeding wounds with your shirt or other clothing and go to a hospital immediately.

What animal should you not run from?

You should not run away from grizzly, black or any other type of bear. Running away is a bad plan if you find yourself toe-to-toe with a bear. They are fast and will come after you as your running will now be considered a reason to chase you.

While bears rarely attack on their own, without being provoked, they are wild animals and therefore unpredictable.

Should you look a wild animal in the eyes?

In most cases you should not stare a wild animal in the eyes.

If you encounter an aggressive wolf, staring into its eyes would be considered a challenge, and make it attack you.

Same goes for a leopard, avoid his gaze at all costs. Lions on the other hand will not attack if you stare them down. In all cases, back away slowly, and don’t run.

To sum it up

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, an attack will happen and it will benefit you to stay calm and enact a plan.

  • Know your animals – Research the animals in that area before you go.
  • Have a plan of action in case of an attempted attack.
  • Have a last resort weapon of defense like loud horns, pepper spray, sticks, etc.
  • Respect their territory. Understand the terrain and avoid nests and dens.
  • Remember your way out.

Whether you are enjoying or surviving the wilderness, keep your distance, and respect nature. For more tips on how to keep bears away from your campsite, check out my earlier article to find out.

Please feel free to leave comments, questions or feedback about this article. If you’ve experienced an attack by a wild animal, I would love to hear about it! Please share any tips or tricks that have prevented an encounter with a wild animal from going terribly wrong.


6 thoughts on “How to Avoid Wild Animal Attacks”

  1. Very insightful article. Luckily, I’ve never had to use any of these techniques but I know a couple of people that have had lucky escapes! Is there any way to identify a ‘bluff charge’ before it happens? As far as I’m aware – from what I’ve read – a ‘bluff charge’ is when a bear tries to intimidate you by standing on it’s rear legs and making noises before charging… but veering off at the last moment. Is this common?

  2. Based on my experience, I don’t see it as “bluff charging”. I think most bears stop charging because it read our body language. In other words, when the bear sees the person standing still, it reads “I’m ready to protect/defend myself.”

  3. This article speaks to a lot of thing that many people have gotten out of touch with. As creatures who have done an excellent job of developing ways to protect ourselves, whether through the development of the places we live, the information we share to warn one another, or the tools we have at our disposal to keep ourselves protected. Many of us now find ourselves in positions where we would not be able to survive if those things were taken away. It’s good to have resources like this to remind ourselves that we have the potential to be capable in these situations if we use the one thing that can’t be taken away from us, our minds.

  4. HI Jay! Being proactive especially when planning camping trips is crucial to one’s survival. This includes getting those first aid kits ready or practicing on survival skills PRIOR to the trip. Information is vital and in today’s world, it’s readily available for consumption. Just make sure that you get those information from reliable sources so you’ll be able to apply it when the need arises – like this article. 🙂

  5. Where I live coyotes and rattlesnakes are the big ugly creatures of the desert. Although I much prefer those over the bears in the mountains of the Carolinas. I do think being respectful and understand how to communicate can really help, though.

  6. Being proactive can be a lifesaver. Make sure you are familiar with the place you’re going to camp, and what animals live there. Best to be prepared than sorry. Also, have those snake traps on standby and a can of pepper spray/weapon for good measure. It would be wise to travel with a group and make plans for any eventuality.


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