A New Threat?

, , | dlacord | Friday, June 25th, 2010 at 8:33 am

Two recent reports of attacks on hiking trails are disturbing, but one is even more frightening than the other. On June 17, a man was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  The area is known for its grizzly activity and park rangers say written warnings were posted and the man was warned verbally, but he didn’t carry any pepper spray or other bear defense gear.

On Sunday, a woman hiking on a trail in north Boulder was attacked, but this time, the attacker wasn’t a wild animal. It was a man – a short thin man who was carrying a knife.  This one ended better – the woman punched her attacker and escaped, and he was later arrested near the trailhead.

The Boulder attack and a similar one last September on Signal Mountain Trail near Fort Collins are reminders that animals aren’t the only dangers on the trail.  Literature about trail safety often talks about what to do if you meet a bear, or a mountain lion, but rarely mentions human encounters.  I know many women who hike alone.  Most of them don’t carry a weapon that could be used against animal or human. 

I carry a folding knife in my backpack, but I don’t know if I could or would ever use it to defend myself.  I’ve had a few unusual encounters in the outdoors – once at night, when a man dressed as a Ninja ran through our backcountry campsite and another time when deputies were called in after campers in a Forest Service campground started playing with their pistols at night, shooting into a raging bonfire they had built. 

The latest attack, in Boulder, got me thinking about trail safety again.  What do you think? Should we be more aware of potential human danger on our hiking trails and in our forests?  Or are these isolated events that could have just as easily happened on a city street?  Have you ever had such an encounter?  Have you thought about what you would do if your attacker wasn’t a black bear or a mountain lion but was a person?

- Deb Acord

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8 Responses to “A New Threat?”

  1. jay says:

    “a man dressed as a Ninja ran through our backcountry campsite”

    I’m sorry and I know it was frightening at the time but that sounds like the most absolutely awesome thing that could ever possibly happen.

  2. Mike says:

    There are humans who prey on humans all over the place. I think the trail incidences are an indication of these scumbags looking for “easier” opportunities where they think they may be less likely to be caught.

    I don’t know that arming oneself is the answer, but carrying repellants like pepper spray or bear repellant would work against a human too.

  3. Fonk says:

    I agree with Mike.

  4. kevin says:

    “a man dressed as a Ninja ran through our backcountry campsite”

    “I’m sorry and I know it was frightening at the time but that sounds like the most absolutely awesome thing that could ever possibly happen.”

    Ha ha ha ha, enjoyed that point!

  5. Yeti says:

    I agree with Jay.

    And carrying a folding knife, or any means of protection/defense, inside your pack will do you no good.

    As for the danger of backcountry; a cat will more than likely succeed in dispatching you before you know it, a bear will more than likely run, if not fight back like a drunk Yeti. A human is by far the worst enemy one can have, calculating, devious, and willing. Humans are also through and determined the odds of you defending yourself when not prepared are slim.

    Pack smart, stay alert, say alive and ALWAYS have situational awareness!!!

  6. Yeti says:

    oh, I forgot to mention practice your indian burns and noogies…just incase.

  7. UltraRob says:

    I once had some drunk late teens or 20 year olds wander into camp. I don’t think they even realized we were camped there. I waited until they were close to the tent and then crawled out of the tent. Once I was standing a few feet from them, I turned on my flashlight into their faces. I doubt they could even see me. After a very short conversation they quickly left.

  8. When I took up metal detecting, the man who sold me my unit made me promise that if I ever went out by myself I would take a dog — for protection from the two legged predators. I usually don’t go out by myself, but with a group. And if I am by myself, I stay in “busy” areas.

    In my area of Arizona, we’ve had some issues recently with rabid foxes. It’s really scary to think that those animals will just attack!

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