All charged up for a wildlife en­counter

The Woolwich Observer - - SPORTS - OPEN COUN­TRY

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.

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