“Why is there a programme called ‘When animals attack’?  It should be called ‘When stupid people go near dangerous animals'”  

I met a fellow trekker once who described his encounter with a King Cobra.  He was climbing a steep path and not paying too much attention to what was up ahead so that he almost walked into the cobra that was rearing up just a couple of feet in front.  He started to back up and tripped, landing on his backside so that he was sitting on the jungle floor, helpless and staring up at the snake looming above him (they can reach a height of 5 feet).  They stayed like that for a moment (probably felt much longer to him) and then the snake turned and moved away into the undergrowth.

blue_malaysan_coral_snake_webIn many instances animal behaviour is difficult to predict – however there are some general rules when it comes to animal attacks on humans.  With snakes that are too small to eat you (i.e. anything smaller than the very largest of pythons) the snake will only attack if it feels threatened (or if it is defending a nest) and the attack is really just its way of telling you to go away (so, for example, snakes may give you a dry bite as a warning shot but if you don’t heed the warning it will bite again and inject venom).  The bottom line is that snakes don’t want to waste their precious venom on something that is too big for them to eat anyway and if they don’t feel threatened they’ll leave you alone.

Another well known rule is that with animals that hunt for larger prey it is almost never a good idea to behave like prey (i.e.to run away) as this is likely to trigger them to give chase.   If you own a dog or a cat you will know this already, both love to chase anything that runs.  You will also see that dogs main tactic for bringing down larger animals is to circle behind them and attack the legs which is why you never want to let a predator get behind you.

As I’m sure everyone knows, approaching a mother with their young in tow is also not a good idea.  Even the humble milk cows of England’s green and pleasant land have been known to kill (31 people killed by cattle in the UK in the last 10 years).  The stray dog we rescued (a dog so petrified of humans that even after 3 years she refuses to let anyone touch or approach her) had a litter of puppies and bit me once when one of them got its head stuck in the fence and I went to help it

But it’s difficult to generalise much further about animal behaviour as it can be unpredictable.  For example most people believe that a camp fire will keep wild animals away but there is another school of thought that thinks the fire may actually attract curious predators to come and check you out.  Who is right?  Probably both – in some instances the fire will keep them away but sometimes a particularly curious animal may be drawn to it.

Even animal experts can get it wrong (e.g. Steve Irwin) and I think all, if they are honest, would agree that it is impossible to accurately predict the behaviour of wild animals 100% of the time.

In this video I’ve filmed the civet cats (for those interested) and also describe a very hairy encounter with a spitting cobra.  The dogs were attacking this cobra and (true to their instincts) were attempting to bite it by the tail and pull it backwards (not a great tactic with a snake) – it amazed me that none of us ended up bitten by the snake and I think this is only down to the fact the the spitting cobras first line of defence is to spit.  Had it been a King Cobra or viper then I’m positive that at least one of us would have been bitten as all of us were well within striking distance.

This has been a very busy year so far and I haven’t been able to devote as much time to junglecraft as I would like and have been a bit slow at replying to comments and emails.  I do eventually reply and will try to post more videos soon.

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