Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Animal Attacks: How to Best Defend Yourself if a Dog, Bear, or These Five Other Animals Attack You

Although rare, animal attacks on humans do occur, and with increasing numbers of people encroaching on wilderness areas, either to visit or to stay for good, wild animal attacks appear to be on the rise.

bear attack

If a bear attacks you, your best chance is to play dead. Not so with sharks, crocodile and mountain lions, when you're better off fighting back.

In most cases, seeing an animal in the wild is a chance to view a part of nature, and a harmless one at that. But should an animal ever attack you, it's imperative to know how to react.

If You're Attacked By A ...

1. Dog

Dogs bite more than 4.7 million people every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and one out of every six bites requires medical attention.

If a dog approaches that you think might attack, here's how to make yourself seem like less of a threat:

  • Don't scream or run

  • Stay completely still with your arms at your sides

  • Avoid eye contact with the dog

  • When the dog loses interest, slowly back away

  • In the event the dog does attack, proceed to the steps below

If a Dog Attacks You ...

  • The Number One Rule: NEVER RUN (you cannot outrun a dog, and their instinct will be to catch you)

  • If you are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball and put your hands over your ears

  • Lie face down, protect your face with your arms

  • Remain motionless and try not to scream or roll around

  • Stay standing if possible and turn your body sideways with your arms at your sides

  • Try to "feed" the dog your jacket, clothes, purse or any other item you can reach

  • Stay motionless and, again, don't run

2. Bear

If you live in or are visiting a region known to have bears, never leave food unattended or in areas that the bears can access.

If a bear approaches you, stay still (they can outrun humans and climb trees). If the bear attacks, lie face down on your stomach and play dead until the bear goes away. Then, leave the area.

3. Moose

"People may not be aware of how aggressive moose can be in the wild, especially with new-born calves," said Kevin Frey, a grizzly bear management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Moose are large, unpredictable and easily surprised, so you should keep your distance if possible. In the event you're cornered by an aggressive moose, Game Warden Kevin Nichols says climbing a tree or getting behind a tree or large rock is a good idea, or, if that's not an option, backing up slowly while keeping your eyes on the animal -- but not making eye contact (this could be construed as a challenge, and you'll likely lose that challenge.)

dog attack

If a dog attacks you, the number one rule is NEVER RUN.

4. Snake

The United States is home to several poisonous snakes, including:

  • American Copperhead

  • Bushmaster

  • Coral snake

  • Cottonmouth

  • Fer-de-lance

  • Rattlesnake

Snakes will typically flee if a person approaches them, but in the event that they're startled (an easy thing to do since snakes are often camouflaged in their environment) they may become aggressive and attack. They may also attack if they feel cornered or are guarding a nest.

"When you see a snake, you should immediately stand as still possible. Try to identify the snake and to determine if it is venomous or not. Do not attempt to touch or move the snake," says Ian du Plessis, the chief herpetologist at the Johannesburg Zoo. "However, be very careful and keep exposed areas of your body like your eyes covered as much as possible, as some snakes spit out their venom, while others can attack from up to seven meters away."

If you are attacked by a snake, Du Plessis says you should not move, try to remain calm, put pressure on the open wound and use your cellphone to call for help.

"If you are attacked by a poisonous snake, do not attempt to drive as you will feel dizzy," he warns. "Try to identify the snake so that you can explain to a doctor or paramedic what it looks like so that they know exactly which anti-venom to administer. Under no circumstances should you attempt to catch the snake as it will surely strike again."

5. Crocodile

Crocodile attacks, though rare, do happen. Ideally, you should avoid boating or entering an area where crocs live, but in the event you are attacked, stay on land if possible, as crocodiles can swim faster and longer than you can.

Then, hit the animal on the nose (which is a sensitive area), poke it in the eyes and make a lot of noise (they don't like loud noise). Fight back as much as you can, and if the crocodile starts to roll, move in the same direction, or your limb could be torn off. If all of your fighting seems futile, you can try playing dead.

A crocodile will fight with prey until it's dead, so it may then release its grip. If this happens, run away from the crocodile in a straight line. They do not like to chase prey, so they will likely give up.

6. Shark

Your odds of being attacked by a shark are just 1 in 11.5 million, says the International Shark Attack File, still, if you see a shark the best thing to do is stay calm and swim quickly, but smoothly, back to the shore or surface.

If the shark actually attacks, you should first try to hit it on the tip of its nose (use whatever you have with you -- a spear or camera if you're diving, a surfboard, or your own fist). The shark should go away long enough for you to calmly, but quickly, swim away (Discomforting side note: If you can't get away, and the shark comes back, hitting it on the nose will become less and less effective).

If the shark bites and you're stuck in its mouth, be as aggressive as you can. Go for the sensitive areas of the eyes and gill openings and hit the shark, hard. Don't "play dead," as this won't help. As soon as the shark releases, get out of the water as quickly as you can (don't hang around because once there's blood in the water, the shark will likely come back to attack again).

7. Mountain Lion

Sightings of mountain lions have increased significantly in recent years, but actual attacks are still very rare. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, if you encounter a mountain lion:

  • KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE TO YOU: Observations of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children.

  • DO NOT APPROACH A LION: Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

  • DO NOT RUN FROM A LION: Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If there are small children there, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.

  • DO NOT CROUCH DOWN OR BEND OVER: In Nepal, a researcher studying tigers and leopards watched the big cats kill cattle and domestic water buffalo while ignoring humans standing nearby. He surmised that a human standing up is just not the right shape for a cat's prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. When in mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.

  • APPEAR LARGER: Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

  • FIGHT BACK IF ATTACKED: Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

Recommended Reading

The Six Most Feared but Least Likely Causes of Death

The Dangers of Typical Neighborhood Animals You Don't Think of as Dangerous



University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

California Department of Fish and Game

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This