March 30, 2013

The NPE Files

Some folks buy into the illusion of civilization a bit too fervently.

Over at Tractor Tracks the most heavily armed twig on the planet tall for her weight and level of armament lovely and talented proprietress starts off discussing a man who was pinned by a bison and then expounds upon her experiences with folks who are less cautious in the natural world than the respective situations merited. (I should note, according to this story, the man initially mentioned by Farmgirl denies throwing rocks at the buffalo, but "shooing" a buffalo ain't exactly a bright idea either.)

Bison aren't the only danger to folks with less-than-adequate threat recognition capabilities. Much smaller creatures have been making the news lately:

In Boulder, Colorado, two coyotes were shot by Rangers after they bit a boy.

The father was there, and he "was able to give a detailed description of the coyote and rangers are confident the two coyotes shot were the two involved in the attack."

Contrast that with this next one:

In Evergreen, Colorado, a woman shoots a firearm for the very first time to protect her dog from a mountain lion.

(Yes, yes I know. She should have taken at least 4 classes, preferably taught by this guy, so she would have been capable of donning her asbestos baklava and rappelling from the roof while double tapping the infiltrating enemy attack feline once in each pupil mid-somersault with the latest protype from Sig-Sauer's Super Secret Elite Ops line before she even thought about picking up so much as a butter knife. But the point is someone with minimal [or possibly no] training did use a firearm to defend herself or her property - that's the whole point of firearms; 14 hours of daily training ain't a necessity. Guns are an effective point and click interface most of the time)

Despite her not being a certified operator, this lady took action to protect her dog, whereas the dad in the previous story was capable of only being a good witness. I'm sure he'd have went barehanded with the coyotes if it came down to it, but he was in a position where his capabilities were exceeded by conditions.

"The animal hospital told the Kelleys that Tilly was the eighth dog in the emergency room that night because of mountain lions attacks." (emphasis mine)

I'm hoping that there was an error - eight in one night? But the next story does augment the claim that mountain lion attacks in the foothills of Colorado are increasing.

"Having eight in the last two to three months is a little bit worrisome, especially for people who have small kids, Luke McChesney with the Evergreen Animal Hospital said." (emphasis added, hopefully redundantly)

Home On The Range relates this undated tale:

"One lady I met, when I was visiting my daughter, who lives in the foothills of the Rockies, said she came home from work as a nurse late, and upon parking, noticed a mountain lion tail twitching under the car in frontn of her. She wisely chose to stay in the vehicle until the big cat wandered off. "

Down in Colorado Springs, back in December of 2012 a pack of coyotes killed someone's dog. A few years back, 3 kids were attacked by coyotes over two months in Broomfield, Colorado. Wikipedia even has a page devoted to coyote attacks on humans, noting most occur in California. And I learned about a new hybrid through that page - the coywolf.

Trails were closed last December in Colorado Springs because of mountain lion encounters:

"...a female jogger encountered the same mountain lion and ran. Lindsey Grewe was slightly injured when the mountain lion chased her before returning to the carcass.

'I really thought he was going to attack me,' Grewe said. 'I had visions that I was going to get eaten.

I know - running from a predator that's in the habit of chasing its prey isn't a recipe for longevity. The lady was very lucky.

Last summer a man was attacked by a bear while camping. Last spring a woman was attacked by a bear on her own porch. And last fall the "bear epidemic" in Colorado was predicted to become worse. With the drought continuing out this way I don't think it'll get better this year.

Here's wikipedia's bear attack page. If you scroll down to the bottom (or just click this link) you'll see a menu for the separate pages they have on animal attacks segregated by animal.

There's not a common theme in all of these attacks, although far too often folks do very stupid things that lead to a confrontational encounter (i.e. petting the moose is not a good idea. I was surprised there wasn't a "deer attack" page, as a surprising number of folks get stomped or antlered [mostly non-terminally] every year by deer and similar animals when someone tries to pet them).

But most if not all victims of animal attacks are not prepared to deal with it. An anecdote:

Years back my at-the-time girlfriend and I went to meet some of her friends while they were camping. Her friends were of the progressive type shall we say, and were simply appalled that I not only owned a firearm, but wore it right there on my belt! I tried to explain to them that the area we were all in was home to bears and mountain lions and coyotes and snakes but they were unphased and commented more than once that it ruined the "peaceful nature" of their camping experience. I noted that they had kids with them and asked what exactly they'd do if a mountain lion popped up and thought one of their tykes was a tasty snack. The way they hesitated confirmed they'd never, ever, ever thought of the possibility, and eventually they replied they'd scare it off "that way everyone can live". Out of politeness (and not wanting to offend the then-girlfriend) I let it slide.

But that mentality seems to be prevalent amongst a large segment of people who spend time outside of their houses.Not so much the anti-gunowner sentiment (though there is that) but the lack of thought that anything bad could happen to them.

They think the world is civilized.

It ain't. And after seeing what their idea of civilization is, I hope it never becomes so.

Actions have consequences. Some are good, some are bad, most are unpredictable. But having at least an idea that when you go out on the trail, or if you live away from a big city, that the local flora and fauna shouldn't be taken for granted as Disney-esque in temperament, intention or capability, should be a prerequisite for you to be allowed outside without a tender.

Some folks don't like or want to carry firearms. That's fine. I get that. Some folks are legally prohibited from carrying firearms in certain places (up until a few years ago that covered all national parks, but that's been lifted at the federal level at least). Machetes are cheap. So are tomahawks. Kukris are affordable. Neither add much to the weight of a pack. A spear can double as a walking stick. Hell, there are a few makers of decent real swords with inventory in stock if you want to get your medieval on (or if you want to get your pirate on), and some custom swordsmiths are out there. (Course I will mock you if I see you on a trail with a tactical katana.)

Not that any melee weapon short of a lightsaber is a good substitute for a firearm - just about any firearm is better than the next best thing - but the point is folks can't use an irrational fear of firearms as an excuse. There are other options - and while I'm not a proponent of bear spray alone even bear spray is better than nothing.

The majority of people who venture outside their door make it home alive. Most folks who hike or camp or live out in the sticks won't end up on any of the "[insert animal here] attacks on humans" pages around the interwebz. But that's by luck, chance, and/or coincidence rather than the result of superior planning or threat assessment skills.

I don't feel overly worried when I go hiking or camping. Even if I went without a firearm (though I have no idea why I'd do such a thing) I'd still be okay. That's because A: I'd not stumble around in a tree-hugging daze thinking I was communing with nature and it liked me back, and B: cause I'd damn skippy-and-a-half have something with me to act as a force multiplier, even if it was just a machete or a tomahawk. In a fight bare handed against a human I'd likely acquit myself well. Against a bear or mountain lion? Not so much.

Most women are physically weaker than most men. It's a genetic thing and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but it should be acknowledged and plans made accordingly in case a confrontation arises. Similarly all men are physically weaker than any given bear. It's a species thing and while nothing to be ashamed of it should be acknowledged and plans made accordingly if a confrontation arises.

Having some sort of weapon should rate with having enough water or food on your pre-hiking/camping check list. Said weapon being able to hurl a heavily stylized rock over a thousand feet per second is preferable, but any weapon is better than no weapon. It at least shows that in the back of the mind there's some recognition that there could be a dangerous encounter of the red-in-tooth-and-claw kind and at least the most minimal level of preparation was made for it. And even more important than what weapon you carry is the awareness that hopefully will prevent getting entangled in a situation where that weapon is useful. Relying on either alone is risky; much better to have both with you - awareness and a weapon.

What gets me though is I can kind of understand someone who doesn't take thought of how to protect themselves when out hiking or camping or even living in an area with a lot of animal encounters, but a lot of folks mentioned in these news stories have kids. Right there. With them. Yet no means of protecting their offspring aside from their stout commitment to peaceful resolutions with their fellow Earth dwellers.

Anyway, the entire purpose of this overly long post is that the world is not civilized despite the consensus of folks at an inner city Starbucks who sip a frappe-something-or-other whilst deriding us gun nuts for being overly paranoid. (By-the-by, no evolutionary prizes were ever handed out to the 2nd most paranoid contestant.)

Just like watching out for muggers folks should pay more attention to the dangers that four footed animals offer, especially when strolling through their neighborhoods. Sometimes an animal will attack through no fault of your own; you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or smell a little too appetizing on a given day. While it may not be your fault that you're initially mistaken for prey, it's still your responsibility to protect yourself, your pets, and especially your kids.

Oh, the title of this post? NPE? Not Paranoid Enough. Couldn't think of a better descriptor for most of the folks mentioned. I'd like to say I hope this won't become a regular feature, but having grown up in a family of fans of the Atlanta Braves in the 1980's I know better than to hope for things unrealistically.

Posted by Publicola at March 30, 2013 05:21 AM | TrackBack

I've got a similar anecdote to yours; several years ago, prior to many states going shall issue, my Partner In Crime and I found ourselves engaged in a multi-couple weekend camping adventure in early spring. When it was noticed that PIC and I were both fully accesorized, it was pointed out by one of the other participants that: a)they didn't think my CWP was valid in [state X] and; b) they were not aware PIC had a CWP. PIC (a practicing attorney) pointed out regarding the potential ramifications of non-licensed carry she could negotiate with a cop, ranger, prosecutor or a judge, but not with a coyote, wild dogs or a mountain lion. For bears, she'd stand behind me because I had the bigger gun.....Interestingly, when I suggested that with 8 of us we possessed more than adequate resources to perform 2 hour standing watches at night the uniform response was "why would we need to do that?"

Posted by: Anon at April 1, 2013 04:37 AM


I wonder what your friends would've said if I was there and they noticed me setting up the trip flares around the campsite... :D

Posted by: Publicola at April 3, 2013 05:44 AM
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