Category Archives: Know Before You Go

Why Do Animals Attack Humans In The Wild? A Lot Of The Time, It’s Kind Of Our Fault.

Reposted with permission:  Huffington Post Science Section: 02/05/16; Carla Herreria Senior Writer, HuffPost

It’s more than just “don’t feed the wild carnivores.” But, uh, don’t feed wild carnivores.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram always seem to be full of photos of people’s outdoor adventures. But not everyone who likes spending time in the wild really knows what they’re doing out there — and according to a study published this week in Nature.com’s Scientific Reports, that’s why humans are increasingly being attacked by wild animals.

A group of researchers from Europe and Canada analyzed data on 697 documented attacks on humans by large carnivores, including bears, cougars and coyotes, in North America, Russia and two countries in Europe.

They found that nearly half of all the observed attacks, which occurred between 1955 and 2014, involved risky behaviors on the part of the human victim.

The most common of those risky behaviors? Leaving a child unattended in the wilderness.

The researchers also found that as populations of large carnivores recover in developed countries (a result of successful conservation efforts), the number of “bold individuals” engaging in outdoor activities has also increased.

The data suggests that most people who explore the outdoors have no idea just how dangerous these habitats really are, according to the researchers.

For evidence, look no further than Lake Tahoe, California, or Water Canyon Park in Colorado, where officials have had to issue official warnings because too many people were trying to take selfies with wild bears.

“A lot of what people do is based on a total lack of knowledge about what is dangerous and what isn’t,” Stephen Herrero, a researcher from the University of Calgary who was involved in the study, told the Canadian Broadcasting Company this week.

“Half of the attacks could have probably been avoided if people had done some pretty simple things,” he went on.

Kathi Taltos/Getty Images – A black bear is seen in Sequoia National Park in California.

But what exactly constitutes “risk-enhancing behavior”? The definition is more broad than you might think, and includes things you’ve probably done at least once in your life.

These were the five most common behaviors people were engaged in at the time of an animal attack, according to the study:

  1. Parents (or adults) leaving children unattended
  2. Walking a dog without a leash
  3. Hunting or searching for a wounded animal
  4. Engaging in outdoor activities at night or before dawn
  5. Approaching a female carnivore with its young

Other risky actions include feeding a wild carnivore and encountering a carnivore that has been fed by humans in the past and therefore approaches humans in search of an easy meal.

The researchers note that while these types of attacks on humans are extremely rare, they tend to have dire consequences for both the human and the animal — especially when media reports sensationalize individual attacks and make them seem more common than they really are.

In 2014, for example, Australia began a controversial cull on sharks — including great white sharks, considered a threatened species — in response to seven fatal shark attacks in three years, despite a number of experts arguing that such a response would not reduce the already low risk of attack.

The study’s authors echo this sentiment, adding that this type of reaction hurts conservation efforts for these carnivores.

“When attacks occur,” the researchers wrote, “large carnivores are frequently killed and negative attitudes toward large carnivores harden.”

If we’re all going to be the great adventurers we portray on social media, then we have to learn how to live safely alongside these wild animals, the researchers urge.

Before going on a hike or a camping trip, or entering a national park or any area that carnivores call home, make sure to follow all safety rules posted by federal wildlife agencies.

And please, leave wild animals — especially carnivores — alone.


At The Cove Palisades State Park, we do not have bears or wolves in the park; however we do have other carnivores like cougar, various omnivores and even some bolder herbivores, such as mule deer that think they should eat Doritos.  Cougars dislike a lot of noise and activity.  They will not walk into camp and beg for food but the others will not hesitate to search out and greedily inhale human handouts.  If you feel the need to hand feed a wild animal remember that they can bite or carry disease.  That cute little forest creature that you were dying to have a selfie with only moments before, can become a despised varmint instantaneously.  Feeding wildlife can have devastating, even if unintentional, consequences to either animal and/or human. 

While wildlife encounters are typically very safe at The Cove; practice not feeding any wildlife.  There is plenty of natural food for them in the park already.

Thanks for doing your part to keep The Cove’s animals wild!

The Cove is Open for Labor Day Weekend

John Keit Photography

photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

Last weekend Crooked River Campground looked very different. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015 was the day of a fast moving, wind driven wildfire that sent campers, staff workers, neighbors and wildlife scurrying to safety at the Crooked River Campground located near Lake Billy Chinook.  Thanks go out to all of the people who helped fight the fire – Oregon State Park Ranger Staff, Neighbors, Volunteers, Fire Crews from around Central Oregon and local law enforcement .

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Mule deer escaping the flames Photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

“All park staff and volunteers that day performed above and beyond the call of duty, and they did it without hesitation,” said Park Manager David Slaght. “They looked out for each other, and no one was hurt. I am so very proud of them all.” Slaght was at home with his family Saturday morning when he got the call that a fire had broken out in the Crooked River Campground (E Loop). He raced to the park, arriving at the same time as a few neighboring farmers driving trucks with water pumps. Together with staff they started building a fire line. “We laid sprinklers and hose line wherever we could to keep the fire from the campground — and we were successful,” Slaght said. Staff and neighbors worked together to protect the campground and neighboring homes until fire crews arrived. Some 20-plus employees and volunteers — including several of the park’s student workers — laid sprinklers and hose line, dug fire line, directed traffic, and helped people evacuate from more than 70 occupied campsites in E Loop. Wind worked against them with gusts up to 60 mph that broke tree limbs and caused the fire to jump and change directions multiple times.  A few campers were not able to evacuate E Loop before the flames reached the road, and seasonal park staff kept them in a protected southwest area for several hours until it was safe to exit. Slaght said, many staff and hosts deserve medals of honor for their efforts that day. He made special mention of the leadership role taken on by seasonal park ranger Lisa Stevenson, who has 16 years of experience as a firefighter in California.  “Lisa and her team started the evacuation and literally saved a family from being burned. Her quick thinking and past firefighter experience made the true difference in this devastating fire,” Slaght said.

Photo Credit: Linda Larson

Photo Credit: Linda Larson

Fire Chief Brian Huff pulled all local resources and requested mutual aid from every Central Oregon fire department.  Emergency First Responders from Jefferson County Fire and Sheriff, Culver Fire, Warm Springs, Oregon State Police, Bureau of Land Management, 3 Rivers, Crook County Fire and Rescue, La Pine Fire, Oregon Department of Forestry, Sunriver Fire and Rescue, Sisters Camp Sherman Fire, and Cloverdale Fire District, (I apologize to any agencies that I didn’t see) battled extreme fire behavior for hours on Saturday and Sunday.  It was incredible how fast the fire moved; wind gusts up to 60 MPH, erratically changing directions along with steep, rocky terrain made fighting it difficult.

The cause of the fire was determined to have originated from charcoal briquettes which were not completely extinguished. The accident has prompted Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to review operational and public safety protocols, said Director Lisa Sumption.

Park staff spent the week installing caution tape and warning signs to keep visitors out of hazardous areas. We’ve been irrigating daily to prevent flare-ups, and firefighters continue to scout the area and put out hotspots.

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As campers pull into a fully-booked Cove Palisades campground this Labor Day weekend, they will see a green oasis surrounded by a charred landscape. Saturday’s 280-acre fire at The Cove left the campground miraculously untouched. The scene is a testament to an incredible team effort at The Cove to protect visitors and the park.

Open flames, candles, tiki torches, and/or charcoal briquettes are banned in all Oregon State Parks east of the Cascades.  While campfires may be part of Labor Day camp-out traditions, they simply are not safe right now.

Silent Hunters

 

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Mountain Lion, National Geographic Photo

Cougar, Mountain Lion, Panther, Puma…listed in dictionaries under more names than any other animal in the world.  “It is the ultimate loner, a renegade presence in the wildest canyons and wildest mountains, the sign of everything that is remote from us, everything we have not spoiled,” The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.  America’s lion has roamed throughout the Americas for at least 50,000 years.

Native to Oregon, the state is home to more than 5,500 cougars. Males can have home territories of 200 square miles.  Only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile range.  While cougar sightings and encounters are rare, it is wise to educate yourself about the big cats.

Cougars are the 4th largest of the big cats.  A cougar can be identified by its large size, cat-like appearance, consistent tan or tawny body color, and long tail. An adult cougar’s tail is nearly three feet long and a third to a half of its total length. Males can weigh up to 260 lbs.  Females are smaller and can weigh up to 90 lbs.  They can run up to 50 MPH, they can jump over 30 feet long or 18 feet straight up, they are good climbers and can swim if necessary.  Most active at dawn and dusk, cougars are lone hunters.  Cougars are carnivores, they hunt by stealth, and they require eight to ten pounds of meat per day.  Their primary food source is deer, but they will eat elk and smaller animals like raccoons, coyotes, porcupines and other mammals.

COUGAR AND CUB IN WESTERN MONTANA

Mother Cougar and Cub, photo credit Mountain Lion Foundation

Females have one litter, up to six cubs, per year.  Baby kittens are completely dependent on their mother when they are born.  Mama cougars are fiercely protective of her cubs.  Cubs are born with spots and blue eyes.  The spots add camouflage from predators; these fade within about six months.  They grow quickly.  A kitten can survive on it’s own by six months but that is rare.  Typically they will stay with her for twelve to eighteen months.  Cougars can live up to approximately ten years in the wild.

If you ever wonder why we don’t see Cougars more often, these big cats can sleep twenty hours a day.  While actual cougar sightings have increased, coyotes, bobcats and dogs are often mistaken for cougars. If you are in an area where cougars have been spotted, it will be posted.  You can look for signs that a cougar has been there by looking for scat (droppings) or tracks.  Cat tracks are round and typically lack claw marks.  Males will leave scrapes (or scratches).  Cougars do not roar, they scream or “caterwaul” (a shrill howling).  They are the largest cat that can still purr.

mountain lion track

Mountain Lion track

Living or playing in Cougar Country…

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times; especially if you are sitting quietly.
  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when they are more likely to be active.
  • Leave your dog at home or keep it on leash.
  • Hike in groups and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Make noise to alert wildlife to your presence.
  • Keep children and pets close to you.
  • Keep campsites clean.  Sleep 100 yards from cooking areas.
  • Store food in animal-proof containers.
  • Do not approach or feed wildlife.  Prey attracts predators. Avoid baby wildlife.
  • Be aware that animal calls and whistles can attract a cougar.

If you encounter a cougar, stay calm and stand your ground.  Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.  Maintain direct eye contact, back away slowly.  If the cat acts aggressively, make yourself look big by raising your arms and yelling.  Do not show fear, crouch down, turn your back, or run.  If attacked, fight back.  Report all attacks to 9-1-1 as soon as possible.

 

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