All charged up for a wildlife encounter
WE DON’T OFTEN ADMIT to this, but there is no greater badge of honour for an outdoorsman than to be charged by a wild animal and then to live to tell the tale.
That’s why I’m happy to report that yesterday I experienced that very thing.
It was a fairly large red squirrel, too
Before I begin to embellish the tale, let me just say that I have been charged by other wild animals before. In fact, my list is quite extensive. It includes green-winged teal, grey squirrel, pigeon, mourning dove, mouse, common vole, grouse, woodcock, bat, robin, house sparrow, chickadee, garter snake, grasshopper, mayfly, carpenter ant, black fly and now this.
Each instant had two things in common – first, I wasn’t asking for trouble and second, I kept my wits about me. And despite what witnesses to these incidents might tell you, yelping should not be added the list. I didn’t do that in two cases.
As animal charges go, the red squirrel incident was particularly frightening since this one looked
like he was having a bad day already.
I was minding my own business, collecting acorns to use as deer bait later in the season when that squirrel started showing all the classic signs it was about to charge.
Ears went back, the hackles on the back of the neck rose, teeth were bared, back was bowed. I did all these things and the squirrel kept advancing anyways.
I considered yelping and climbing the nearest tree, but the squirrel was already occupying it.
I then reverted to plan B, which included raising my arms – not so much to make myself big as to let the aggressive animal know that my deodorant was quickly giving out. Again, the fearless beast continued to advance.
At a time like this, you have to stay calm and evaluate the situation. You also have to ask yourself the tough questions such as, “Can I outrun the animal?” or “What part of me will the animal attack first?”
The answer to the first might have been ‘yes’ had I not had a second serving of dessert.
That left me to address the second question, and to do that correctly you need to understand the animal’s natural prey. That’s when I came to the unsettling conclusion that the natural prey of red squirrels is seed, fungi and nuts.
It was the last item that caused me to assume a lesser known defensive position, which, though effective, did not leave me with any free hand to fend off impending attacks on other parts of my body.
Luckily, the squirrel chose to do what is known by outdoorsmen as a bluff charge.
This is charge that stops shy of the mark and shows that the animal in question probably also had a second serving of dessert or is too lazy to put in the effort required for a full-blown charge.
So there I was trying not to make direct eye contact with a chattering red squirrel less than three feet away. The only thing to do was stand my ground – which was admittedly easier than trying to run through the woods in the defensive posture I had assumed.
I also dropped the acorns and slowly backed up, just to show it who was boss.
Of course, right now some of you might be thinking that I have exaggerated the danger of this encounter just a tad.
To which I say, guilty as charged.