Although visiting outdoor destinations can be a lot of fun, you may come into contact with wildlife you don’t normally encounter.
Susan Mattern learned this through painful experience when she witnessed a mountain lion attack her 5-year-old daughter in a Southern California park.
“The lion came out of nowhere,” she said. “As we stood in the ankle-deep stream, I glimpsed behind me a blur of matted fur, short round ears, a long tail. And then they were gone—that fast—the mountain lion and my daughter.”
Mattern detailed the attack in a book, Out of the Lion’s Den (www.outofthelionsden.net).
She offers the following tips for tourists heading to outdoor destinations:
• Research the area before you go. Just as you read about the interesting sights, research the local wildlife. Ask locals, and check news outlets for any recent wildlife attacks.
• Don’t hike or camp alone. If you do, make sure someone knows exactly where you are going and when you will return.
• Small children and pets are simply prey for any large predator. If the animal is hungry or defending its young, it will attack. Don’t let your children run ahead on trails or get out of sight.
• Always carry protection. Bear spray or a sturdy walking stick are good examples.
“There are a few things the experts still say that just aren’t true,” Mattern said. “One is, ‘If you see a lion, make yourself look tall and threatening—make lots of noise.’ That’s good advice if you actually see the lion. But in reality…the attack will almost always come from behind, stealthily and quietly. You will never even see it.
“And the saying, ‘Animals are more afraid of you than you are of them.’ Not in our case.”
Mattern points out that part of the problem is that people are encroaching on wildlife’s habitat.
“Animals are protective of their territory and can attack before you know what’s happening,” she said. “Even though cities and counties should warn people if there is danger, that doesn’t always happen.”
It took a lengthy lawsuit before the county where her daughter was attacked even put up warning signs in its parks.
“Remember, in spite of all the amazing programs on TV showing the majesty and beauty of these creatures—bears, alligators, mountain lions, snakes, elk, wolves, bison—they are wild creatures,” Mattern said. “They are not your cute dog or domesticated cat, eager to be petted and fed, or approached for a great photo op. They are unpredictable and sometimes very dangerous.
“If you do see wildlife, leave it alone in its own natural environment. Let them be the wild creatures they are.”
This article was adapted from information provided by News & Experts.