Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Animal attacks

Department of Fish and Game offers tips on staying safe in bear country

A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Campers, anglers and hikers enjoying the outdoors may have encounters with wild animals -- including black bears, which are estimated to number 40,000 in California. Certain precautions can and should be taken when it comes to interaction with these omnivores, especially by limiting food odors that attract bears.

"Bears are constantly in search of easily obtainable food sources," said Marc Kenyon, California Department of Fish and Game statewide bear program coordinator. "A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates human activity with potential food. It’s always unfortunate when a bear has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care."

The California Department of Fish and Game shares the following precautionary tips that should be taken when in bear country:

-- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.

-- Never keep food in your tent. Instead, store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.

-- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.

-- Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.

-- Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.

-- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.

-- Keep a close watch on children and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.

-- Never approach a bear, pick up a bear cub or attempt to attract a bear to your location; observe the animal and take pictures from afar.

-- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.

-- If attacked, fight back; if a bear harms a person in any way, immediately call 911.

The Department of Fish and Game’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people, and provides further tips for living and visiting safely in bear habitat.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game  

Fish and Game department reminds Californians about rattlesnakes

Mojave rattlesnake

California is home to more than half a dozen species of rattlesnakes. As the weather warms the state's only native venomous snake becomes more active, increasing the likelihood of their being encountered both in the wilderness and in residential areas.

While the odds of being bitten by a rattlesnake are slim (there are about 800 cases nationwide reported annually to the American Assn. of Poison Control Centers) and should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors, the California Department of Fish and Game shares the following precautionary tips which can lessen the chance of being bitten when out in snake country:

-- Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.

-- When hiking, stick to well-used trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.

-- Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. 

-- Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.

-- Never grab "sticks" or "branches" while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.

-- Be careful when stepping over door sills as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edges of buildings where they are protected on one side.

-- Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.

-- Do not handle a freshly killed snake, as it can still inject venom.

-- Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

Information on rattlesnake identification and what to do in the event of a snake bite can be found on the California Poison Control website.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Mojave rattlesnake. Credit: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times


Bear safety tips from 'Bear Whisperer' Steve Searles

Bear expert Steve Searles with a sleeping black bear outside Mammoth Lakes. With spring in full swing, hikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts are likely getting out and heading to local mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Also venturing out are black bears, which at this time of year begin to emerge from their dens for longer periods of time after their winter hibernation, meaning two things -- they're hungry, and many of the sows are with cubs.

With that in mind, Mammoth Lakes wildlife specialist Steve Searles, better known as the "Bear Whisperer," shares the following Q & A safety tips for those visiting and living in bear country:

Question: What should a person do if they see a bear on the trail?
Answer: Don't approach the animal, but don't run away, either. Enjoy the experience. If you don't have any food out, admire the animal from afar with binoculars or the zoom feature on a digital camera.

Q: And if the bear is close?
A: Make yourself look bigger by holding your hands above your head, bang pots together and yell at the animal. If everyone did that I wouldn't have a job. Bears are the best at reading body language and vocalization.

Q: What if there are children present?
A: A lot of the information out there says grab your kids and put them up on your shoulder. But this automatically sets an element of fear in the bear. Instead, keep young ones by your side.

Q: What about dogs?
A: All dogs bark at bears. And all bears run from dogs. If I had a penny for every poodle or Chihuahua that chased a bear I'd be rich. Bears are vegetarians -- they don't make a living on dogs and cats.

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Fish and Game Q&A: Might it be time to consider a mountain lion hunting season?

Mountain lion In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I am looking for some information on the seriousness of the apparent increase in mountain lion attacks in the news lately. There have been several incidents of bears attacking humans, and we have a bear season. I’m wondering if it might not be time to reconsider having a mountain lion season? I understand that more mountain lions are killed each year now with depredation permits than were ever killed with a mountain lion season.

What can you tell me about the population increase in mountain lions in California in the past 10 years or so? Would it require legislation to overturn the existing law? Would Department of Fish and Game  data support the need for such a reversal? (Bill T.)

Answer: It’s important to note that mountain lion (puma) attacks on humans are very rare. In the last decade, there have been only four confirmed attacks in California, three of which were nonfatal. Though you may be seeing more media coverage of mountain lion attacks on domestic animals, there’s no evidence that the number of these incidents is increasing. While DFG does not formally track the number of domestic animals killed by pumas, we do keep track of the number of depredation permits issued for problem mountain lions. The numbers of depredation permits issued and resulting pumas killed have actually been fewer in recent years, though.

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Outdoor Life magazine introduces Outdoor Life Survival website

Outdoor Life Survival Outdoor Life magazine recently announced the launch of Outdoor Life Survival, a new website chock-full of informative and possibly useful topical survival news, advice and tips for outdoorsmen, travelers and urban dwellers.

With more than 20 years experience studying survival skills and primitive technologies, survival expert and instructor Tim MacWelch -- the site's lead contributor -- will share strategies on all aspects of sustaining oneself in the wild through photo galleries, videos and how-to guides, as well as frequent postings to the site's new Survivalist blog.

Outdoor Life Survival's content is divided into five sections, designed to provide ideas and solutions for almost any survival situation:

Wilderness, focusing on classic outdoor and wildlife dangers, including surviving animal attacks and bites, extreme weather and finding safe wild food sources;

Urban, which addresses skills such as burglar-proofing a home, freeing a stuck car from ice or mud and creating a family emergency plan;

Conflict, offering tips on staying safe abroad and protecting yourself in dangerous situations;

Disasters, which focuses on preparing for and surviving hurricanes, floods, blizzards and other natural catastrophes;

Gear, a resource for the best in survival essentials such as knives, watches, food and survival kits.

"The essential skills for survival are no longer just the purview of those who love the outdoors," said Todd Smith, editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life magazine. "With unpredictable weather, global unrest and even the increasing congestion in our cities, the tactics that have long kept outdoorsmen safe are of interest to a general audience. OL Survival channels the expertise of top survivalists into tips anyone can use to be prepared and stay safe, whether they're on a wilderness adventure or close to home."

Other features of the site include a forum where visitors can post questions and receive answers from Outdoor Life experts and fellow online members, and a gallery offering readers the opportunity to share their survival tales and photos.

-- Kelly Burgess


Image courtesy of Outdoor Life

U.S. led the world in shark attacks last year

Great white shark prowls the waters near Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

The U.S. led the world again in the number of shark attacks last year, according to a University of Florida report released this week.

Worldwide, 79 attacks occurred in 2010 -- the highest number since 2000 (80) -- with 36 reported in the United States. Australia was second with 14, then South Africa with eight and Vietnam and Egypt with six each.

While Florida led the nation with 13 reported attacks, this total was significantly lower than the state's yearly average of 23 over the past decade.

"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. Florida typically has the highest number of attacks worldwide, but 2010 marked the state’s fourth straight year of decline, Burgess said. "Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."

Of those attacks in the U.S. outside of Florida, five were in North Carolina, with four each in California, Hawaii and South Carolina. There were single attacks in Georgia, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Surfers were the victims of slightly more than half of the incidents reported worldwide in 2010, nearly 51% of the cases. An economic downturn will usually influence tourists but not necessarily surfers, whose sport is relatively low-cost, Burgess said.

Swimmers and waders were the second-largest group affected, accounting for nearly 38% of the shark attacks internationally.

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Study suggesting sharks are color-blind could help prevent attacks

Shark New research on how sharks see suggests that the predators are color-blind, a discovery that may help prevent attacks on surfers, swimmers and other ocean-sport enthusiasts.

Using a technique called micro-spectrophotometry -- which measured the light-sensitive cells in the eyes -- the joint study, conducted by researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland, looked at the potential for color vision in numerous shark species caught off Queensland and Western Australia and concluded that they have only one type of cone photoreceptor in the retina.

"Humans have three cone types that are sensitive to blue, green and red light, respectively, and by comparing signals from the different cone types we get the sensation of color vision," Nathan Hart, associate research professor at the University of Western Australia, said in a news release. "However, we found that sharks have only a single cone type and by conventional reckoning this means that they don't have color vision."

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Funeral, memorial service and ocean paddle-out to be held for Lucas Ransom; shark identified as great white

Lucas2 The family of 19-year-old shark-attack victim Lucas Ransom will hold a viewing, rosary and funeral Mass Wednesday at 5 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church, 269 W. 3rd Street in Perris.

On Thursday, a separate memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. at Evans-Brown Mortuary, 27010 Encanto Drive in Sun City, just south of the family's home in Romoland.

And at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, family and friends will gather at the south side of the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, where a paddle-out will be held to scatter flowers into the Pacific Ocean in Ransom's memory.

All events are open to the public.

Ransom was attacked by a shark and died from his injuries Friday while body-boarding with a friend off Surf Beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

On Monday, California Department of Fish and Game officials said they are all but certain that the attack was likely by a great white shark.

"It would be highly surprising if it was anything else," Fish and Game marine biologist Carrie Wilson told The Press-Enterprise. "Typically when these things occur, it's a case of mistaken identity. These sharks really don't have much interest in humans. We're too skinny compared to seals and sea lions," Wilson said. "They want the blubber and high meat content."

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Surf Beach, site of Friday's fatal shark attack, reopens

Board Vandenberg Air Force Base's Surf Beach, which was closed Friday after the fatal shark attack on 19-year-old Lucas Ransom, reopened to the public at 8 a.m. Monday.

A statement issued by the base said that during the three-day closure period, which included nearby Wall and Minuteman beaches, base conservation law enforcement officers increased patrols of the beaches and that there were no observed or reported shark sightings.

In addition to existing signage identifying no lifeguard on duty and outlining beach rules, officials said they will post additional signs at the beaches reading, "Warning: recent shark attack -- swim, surf at your own risk."

Minuteman and Wall beaches, accessible only to base personnel, remain closed as part of an order halting all outdoor recreational activities in order to facilitate events related to Vandenberg's two-week operational-readiness and unit-compliance inspections, which began Sunday.

Ransom, a UC Santa Barbara student, was in the water with a friend about 100 yards offshore Friday morning when a shark bit his left leg off. His friend brought Ransom to shore, but his injuries were too severe and Ransom bled to death.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Lucas Ransom's bodyboard shows the shark bite. Credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department


Body boarder fatally attacked by shark in Santa Barbara County; area beaches closed [Updated]


Body boarder fatally attacked by shark in Santa Barbara County; area beaches closed [Updated]


A 19-year-old man was fatally attacked by a shark while body-boarding north of Santa Barbara on Friday morning.

[Updated at 3:04 p.m.: The victim has been identified as Lucas McKaine Ransom of Romoland in Riverside County.]

The attack occurred between 9 and 9:30 a.m. at Surf Beach, west of Lompoc at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Officials ordered the closure of Surf, Wall and Minuteman beaches for at least 72 hours due to the attack.

A base spokesman told L.A. Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein that Santa Barbara County coroner's investigators were at the beach and that the investigation is being handled in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

The Santa Maria Times reports that the victim, a UC Santa Barbara student, was in the water with a friend about 100 yards offshore when a shark bit part of his left leg off, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

The friend brought the victim to shore, but his injuries were severe and he bled to death, Brown said.

Federal and State Fish and Game officials are working to identify the type of shark, which was described as being 14 to 20 feet in length.

-- Kelly Burgess


Photo: Airmen 1st class Daniel Clark, left, and Staff Sgt. Keri Embry post a sign warning surfers of a shark attack Friday at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Associated Press

Man killed by aggressive mountain goat in Washington park was an experienced hiker

Boardman A 63-year-old man described by authorities as an experienced hiker died from injuries he sustained during an encounter with an aggressive mountain goat Saturday in Washington's Olympic National Park.

According to the Peninsula Daily News, Bob Boardman, of Port Angeles, Wash., was on a day hike with his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend Pat Willits and had stopped for lunch at an overlook when a mountain goat appeared and moved toward them.

When the goat began behaving aggressively, Boardman urged Chadd and Willits to leave the scene.

Bill and Jessica Baccus, also out for a day hike with their children, saw Willits, a longtime friend of Jessica's, coming up the trail.

"Nobody saw what actually happened," Jessica was quoted as saying in the Peninsula Daily News. "They heard Bob yell."

When the group returned to the scene, they saw the goat standing over Boardman, who lay on the ground bleeding.

Bill, an off-duty park ranger, was able to get the goat to move away by waving a blanket at it and pelting it with rocks, although the animal stayed nearby. The Coast Guard was called while Jessica began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Boardman.

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Deer hunter attacked by bears as he sits in tree stand

Bear A deer hunter was injured Saturday when he was attacked by a female black bear and her three cubs as he sat in his tree stand, an incident that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment described as one of the weirdest outdoor events in memory.

According to the agency, Chad Fortune of Walloon Lake, Mich., was bow hunting for deer just before dark Saturday on farmland in Bear Creek Township when the bears approached and then climbed up his tree stand and attacked him.

Fortune, 21, said at first two of the animals climbed up the tree stand ladder and when he shouted at them, they dropped to the ground. A third bear then climbed up the tree, and the hunter punched and elbowed it until it fell from the tree. Then a bear climbed up the tree stand ladder and bit Fortune on the leg.

Fortune remained in the tree stand for two hours until his fiancee and father came looking for him, concerned that he had not yet returned. After helping him down, they took Fortune to the hospital for treatment to bites on his left calf, thigh and shoulder, including 40 stitches to repair a gash in his leg.

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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.