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Nutria, cougars and bears – oh my!

Nutria, cougars and bears – oh my!


So you think you’re a survivalist. You’re really good at it. You’ve made a camp in the woods with a sturdy debris hut, a roaring fire, some dried fruit and jerky from your cache and purified water. You are one phenomenal human being. You have faced the onslaught of a subzero doomsday, and you have defeated it.

Then you notice something on the horizon. Smoke signals! Some kind stranger across the mountain is sending out a warning in Morse code written across the fading sky: Wolves! Stop. A whole pack of them. Stop. Be prepared. Stop. (No word on whether the Beaver State’s famous OR-7 is among them. Stop.)

As if an icy apocalypse weren’t enough, now there are wild and probably hungry animals prowling in your direction. You just can’t catch a break these end days.

So what do you do? Here’s a rundown of basic battle tactics for warring with dangerous animals found in the Pacific Northwest:

Wolves. Much like with Medusa, the biggest mistake you can make when you meet a big dog of any kind is to look it in the eye. Wolves won’t turn you to stone, but they will take your friendly glance as a challenge — which they will accept, universally and enthusiastically. And much like with Germans, the second biggest mistake you can make is to smile at a wolf. Wolves may not think you’re a superficial American, but they will take your show of teeth as aggression.

Even if you don’t start a grinning staredown, a wolf will probably see your mere existence as a challenge. At which point, if there’s nothing you can climb (which isn’t a bad idea, unless the wolf decides to lurk at the base of the tree and/or recruit nearby friends to wait with it), you should try to scare the wolf away with shouting and/or fire.

If that fails, which it will, curl up in the fetal position or put your back to a wall or tree to protect your organs; then use your limbs or a weapon to fight off the beast. Focus on attacking its snout, which is especially sensitive. Or if you can ram your arm or a stick down its throat, it won’t be able to bite you. Good luck with that.

Black bears. If ever I’ve had reason to be angry with God, surely it is because he made bears so confoundedly different. Why couldn’t all bears be defeated the same way? It’s like he wants us all to die as a bear’s lunch.

In Oregon, you’re likely to encounter a black bear, which — unlike grizzlies or brown bears, which you should play dead around; or bamboo-deprived pandas, which you should just give a big hug — are apparently timid, stupid creatures easily scared off by big, loud things.

So make yourself Big and Loud. Wave your arms, jump around, throw stuff, scream, growl, sing something from “Don Giovonni.” Or if you have a vacuum, turn that sucker on; works with my cat every time.

Cougars. Better known as the mountain lion, which may be the fiercest name in the animal kingdom, this big cat is clearly dangerous. Not to be tamed by a little catnip or tin foil, a cougar has its eye on lunch, aka you.

If you notice this predator approaching, DON’T RUN. (Really, that advice applies to most of the animals in this list; you can’t outrun them and will just emphasize, “I am prey — chase me!”) Instead, stare. Seriously, make eye contact and don’t break it; this will establish your obvious dominance. (I practice this with my 10-pound housecat all the time. Who has thumbs and wins every time? THIS GIRL.)

If it still advances, use the Big and Loud tactics recommended for black bears. Still advancing? Grab whatever weapon you have — hopefully a gun, but a knife, club or common No. 2 pencil will suffice — and fight back. Stab at its eyes. Fling that kitty off you.

But even if and when you intimidate or injure it, don’t run away. Leave confidently and slowly, like the awesome champion of cougars you are.

Nutria. You may not understand my fixation with these oversized rodents if you grew up in the Pacific Northwest. But my Southern Idahoan childhood never let me in on the horrible secret of their existence. Those teeth! That tail!

There is no known survival guide for a nutria attack, but my guess is, in this case, you really should just run. And try to cross the path of a bigger predator that will eat it, like Obi Wan does with the sea monsters under the waters of Naboo. If it works for a Jedi knight, it can work for you.

Polar bears. (Hey, if the whole Northern Hemisphere were chilly, they could totes wander south. Just go with it, OK?) Don’t let the word “bear” fool you. Unlike their brown and black brothers, polars are neither tricked by your fetal position nor impressed by your arm waving. If you’re unarmed, you can try to gouge its eyes and nose then run away from this now-disoriented carnivore. But really, you’re not that fast or brave. You’re not that good at survival. You’re just dead meat.

Remember that many of these animals are like crazy ex-girlfriends on Facebook: They will stalk you. You may escape them once, but they will follow you. So be vigilant, and keep a fire going, because fire is the privacy setting of the wild, a safeguard to ward off predators.


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