The Portland Phoenix

Into the Wild: Know what to do when animals attack

We don’t have to worry too much about dangerous wildlife in Maine. Mountain lions were killed off long ago (I don’t care what your great-uncle thought he saw crossing the road outside Millinocket) and we don’t have any venomous snakes or spiders.

But you still need to be prepared. Here are some important tips to protect yourself out in the woods:

• Black bear — Wikipedia’s certainly reliable list of fatal bear attacks in the United States includes just a single entry from Maine: a captive black bear that killed two of its keepers at a gas station in Ellsworth in 1936. So, the first tip is don’t keep a bear captive at your gas station.  If attacked by a black bear, don’t try to play dead (which is what you’re supposed to do if attacked by a grizzly). Instead, escape if you can to a car or a building. If you can’t run and need to fight back, concentrate your blows to the face and muzzle.

• Moose — If you’re charged by a moose you should just run away as fast as you can. Don’t fight back, and focus on getting yourself behind a tree or car or something else. If you’re knocked down, curl up into a ball and play dead. Moose prefer a fair fight.

• Coyote — Face the coyote and maintain eye contact. Don’t turn your back and run, which indicates weakness, but instead remain dominant. Be bold, throw rocks and sticks towards the animal to scare it away.

• Red fox — Healthy foxes very rarely attack humans, but may attack if they’re cornered or if they have rabies. Don’t get close to foxes and don’t corner them. If a fox is acting oddly, give it plenty of space. If it’s being aggressive, stumbling around, or foaming at the mouth it may have rabies. Get the heck out of there as soon as you can, and fight it off before seeking immediate medical attention.

• Raccoon — Raccoons will only attack if they have rabies. Fight it off and seek immediate medical attention.

A wood frog in attack mode (or not). (Courtesy Wikipedia)

• Canada lynx — OK, this is a good one. First, consider yourself lucky: lynx are pretty rare in Maine. But keep your eyes on it, and don’t turn your back. Always leave the animal an escape route – they’re much more likely trying to run away than attack.

• Skunk — Skunks only “attack” if they’re rabid; again, seek immediate medical attention. Getting sprayed by a skunk isn’t really an attack, they’re defending themselves. The internet has a lot of answers for getting skunk stink off, including washing with a mixture of one quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of dish soap or laundry detergent.

• Paper Wasp — Insects are animals too. Run away as fast as you can. Don’t try to swat or squash them, as they may release pheromones that attract other angry wasps. If you’re stung, wash the wound with water to remove the venom and take antihistamines to control inflammation.

• Bald eagle — I guess this could happen. Maybe you’re carrying a bunch of fish or something? This would genuinely hurt because they’ve got big talons. Run away and cover your head but don’t fight back – they’re covered under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

• Brown trout — Hmm, kind of running out of animals that could attack. A brown trout could bite you, I guess, if it was really upset about something. Just, like, swat it away. Or, if you have the proper licenses, try to grab it and fry it up.

• Brook trout — See above.

• Landlocked salmon — Another big fish. Gently nudge it away.

• Wood frog — Really scraping the bottom of the animal-attack barrel here. Best bet if a frog attacks you is to just block it with a finger, or walk up some stairs. If it’s persistent, take a video with your smartphone I bet it’ll go crazy viral.

• Mosquito — Squish the hell out of these jerks.

Stay safe out there.

Nick Lund of Cumberland is outreach and network manager at Maine Audubon. He has written about nature for the National Audubon Society, Down East, National Parks Magazine, The Washington Post, and others. He can be found online at and on Twitter @TheBirdist.

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