Hazards

Before you hit the trail, it is vitally important that you familiarize yourself with the hazards you might meet in the wild and how to deal with them.  List all the ones in your area.  Do some research so that you know how to avoid them.  Find out also what to do if you find yourself in a situation where a hazard becomes unavoidable.  Read up on how to treat an injury you might sustain.

Staying Safe

A simple internet search will yield plenty of information about dangers as well as suggestions for how to avoid or deal with them.  Don’t assume that the first thing you read is correct, however, but check many sources.  The Peterson’s Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants is a good resource in this regard. Additionally, don’t be shy about reaching out to others to help complete your research.  Park rangers, employees at sporting goods stores, friends, all may have valuable insight.

Consider multiple options in advance of suffering contact.  If you brush against poison ivy, for example, you might turn and find a patch of jewelweed nearby, which you can crush and use to wash the affected skin.  So, it’s useful to know what jewelweed looks like, too.  Chewed plantain can be a great salve for the sting of bees and wasps.  Poke around on the internet to discover as many solutions as you can.

In dealing with dangerous animals, consider the safety of the animal.  Ensuring animals’ safety is always a good first line of defense.  Never corner a wild animal.  Never provoke one.  Seeing a black bear does not make it a threat.  The unnecessary killing of animals does not make anyone safer, and injuring one can put you in grave danger indeed.  Know that some animals charge without making contact.  Do your homework to understand when a threat is real and what your options are.

The List

List the hazards in your area.  Include not just those that can be fatal but ones that can cause discomfort of all sorts:

  • Mammals – black and brown bears, cougar, moose, elk, etc.  You may need to include a neighbor’s aggressive dog
  • Reptiles – venomous lizards and snakes
  • Ticks, spiders, scorpions, centipedes
  • Insects, including bees, wasps, ants, beetles, caterpillars, biting flies, etc.
  • Plants –
    • Those with which you might make contact – for example, poison ivy, cactus, devils walking stick.  Be very clear about what each one looks like.  Poison ivy is poisonous even when not in leaf; so, it’s useful to know what the plant and vine look like when leaves are not present
    • If you like to forage for plants or mushrooms, then you will need far more extensive information.  The Peterson’s guide includes some of this information as well
  • Hanging branches and trees (“widow makers”); know also that some tree species are apt to drop large branches in windy conditions

© Nate Harvey, 2015