Survival wisdom certainly carries its fair share of advice that are actually complete myths and urban legends, but continues to be shared as the gospel truth. Popular survival TV shows and Hollywood films are often guilty of promoting these myths as real, so we thought we would look at three common myths around animal attacks and how you should really deal with such situations.
Myth: You can suck the venom out of snakebites
This doesn’t work. As soon as venom enters your system, it can travel so quickly that you are unlikely to draw out a sufficient amount to make any difference. Not only that; if you put your mouth over a bite (on you or someone else) that may contain some potent venom, then all you are doing is running the risk of ingesting some of the poison yourself. In addition, you would be transferring extra bacteria from your mouth into the wound. Neither of those seem like great ideas. Do not try to cut the venom out or use a tourniquet either, as you may cause unnecessary damage to surrounding tissue.
In the UK, we generally don’t have to worry about wild venomous snakes as the only one is the very shy adder; most people bitten by snakes in the UK are those who choose to keep them as pets. However, across the world there are many venomous animals to be wary of, each with varying levels of toxicity to humans, some deadly, some barely registering. Snakes and scorpions in particular can be small, silent, quick and very well camouflaged, you may not even be aware of their presence until too late. Prepare before you travel anywhere; find out about the animals that inhabit the area you are going to, how to recognise them, especially the dangerous ones, and what to do if they attack.
Different venoms affect the body in different ways. If you suspect a venomous bite, call for emergency medical help immediately. Tell them what type of snake or animal it was as specifically as possible. Keep the victim still and calm as moving around will only speed up circulation. A pressure immobilisation bandage and splint can slow the progress of venom if applied correctly and put a mark over the bandage to show where the original bite site is.
Myth: Punching a shark on the nose
Another myth perpetuated by Hollywood movies, the reality is that punching a shark on the nose is probably not going to make it go away. Even if you’re a champion boxer, the force of your punch will be massively reduced by the water resistance. The nose of a shark is indeed very sensitive, but also very close to its mouth and teeth which can easily and quickly help you lose your hand or arm when you go in for the swing.
Use common sense around possible shark waters (thankfully not a big problem here in the UK). Always follow the authority guidelines for the area you are in. Don’t go too far from the shore and stay with others. Don’t enter the water close to fishing activity or where a lot of fish is gathered, don’t go into the water if you are bleeding and don’t pee in the water. Sharks are super sensitive at smelling these things and may come looking for food, they may also come looking if they sense commotion in the water. In low visibility, they may mistake a human for food or simply take an exploratory bite to see what it is.
If you do find yourself in uncomfortably close proximity to a shark, then assess your situation. If the shark looks like it is simply passing by, then stay still and calm, avoid disturbing the water around you. Curling into a ball can let them know you are not competing for their food. As they are ambush predators, keep your eyes on them and your back to rocks or a reef so that they cannot surprise you from behind.
If a shark does actually attack you, use anything you may have with you as a weapon to try and keep some distance, whether it’s a surfboard, underwater camera, snorkel etc. Your best bet to try and loosen their grip is to whack it in the eyes or in the gills until you can get away. You migh talso want to let others know of the danger!
Myth: Play dead in a bear attack
Like sharks, advice on dealing with a bear attack is not usually that important when in the UK, but there are plenty of countries around the world where it is a very real threat. If you ever feel like taking a hiking holiday in Alaska for example, then you need to respect the resident wild bears and understand how to avoid and get away from a possible attack. Playing dead when faced with a bear is not the number one piece of advice, although in certain situations, it might help.
As with all dangerous wild animals, the first rule of survival is to try and avoid provoking the animal in the first place. Bears will generally choose to avoid humans rather than seek them out. Guidelines provided by the National Park Service of Alaska advise to travel in large groups and make noise while travelling by singing, talking loudly etc, to warn bears of your presence. Avoid known bear hotspots, feeding grounds or dead animals that they may be feeding on. If you see a bear, keep your distance.
Should you come across a bear that has started to pay closer attention to you, rather than running away, stay calm. Don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements, stay still and talk calmly while slowly waving your arms to show the bear that you are human and don’t mean any harm. The bear may come closer because they are curious, so calmly stand your ground, they may well decide to turn away once they’ve had a look. If they still still, try and move away slowly and sideways as this is non-threatening. Do not run, they can outrun you. Do not climb a tree, they can outclimb you too. Do not offer food and do not take any backpacks off as these can actually help to protect you.
If they do go on the offensive, then the NPS advise different strategies depending on whether it is a brown bear or a black bear. They say play dead if it is a brown or grizzly bear, lie on your front and spread your legs to stop it turning you over, as fighting back will increase the likelihood of injury. The NPS say do not play dead if it is a black bear – fight back strongly, kicking it and using anything you can to hit the bear around its muzzle and face until you can escape. Of course, there are other types of bears in other parts of the world. Generally, if they are a predatory bear like the black bear is, then do not try to play dead as all you are doing is effectively offering them a meal.
Here at Wild Survivor we can’t really give you authentic training to survive shark and bear attacks – but our team of veterans can teach you how to survive in the great outdoors. Book your 2020 survival training experience today. Browse our courses and dates here.