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Backpacker Magazine – October 2006

A Dozen Ways to Die

How do hikers meet their maker in the backcountry? The answers may surprise you.

by: Steve Howe


Cougars One to two people a year lose their lives to these cats, which show a distinct preference for children and smaller adults. Advice: Take your big dog or a partner along when running trails in known mountain-lion country.

Bears "From 2000 through early summer 2006, there has been an average of two deaths a year in North America attributed to black bears," says renowned grizzly researcher Steve Herrero. "In that same period, there were nine fatal attacks by grizzlies, less than two per year on average. None of the incidents involved backpackers." Advice: Herrero reports that all of the black-bear attacks were predatory, while the grizzly incidents were mostly defensive. That stat reinforces a general rule of thumb: Fight black bears, play dead with grizzlies. Always travel noisily, contain food odors, and store food securely in bear country.

Animal Attacks (10, 11, 12)
Despite the media attention given to every bear or cougar attack, predators are a tiny risk on the trail. You're much more likely to die from an allergic reaction to a wasp sting in your backyard or from a collision with a deer while driving to trailhead than in the jaws of a belligerent grizzly, says Ricky Lee Langley, M.D., an animal-attack expert with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. At left are his estimates of total annual U.S. fatalities for various animals, large and small. These numbers include non-backcountry areas; Langley says the vast majority of the deaths occur in rural or suburban settings.



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READERS COMMENTS

Star
deltazen
Nov 15, 2013

When you die in the wilderness you die, you're dead. You don't meet anyone. Humans are not made by anything or anyone. If you die while recreating in the front country or the back country, you just die. Whether that death is pain free or not depends on the manner of death. However it happens, the deceased does not and cannot meet their maker.

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Nov 15, 2013

Live to hike another day by staying found and knowing how to use a compass. Even skilled explorers can become lost or somehow end up spending the night hunkered down because of weather or injury. Many people never consider that they might end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors or waiting for medical help --and so they hike without the essentials. Day-hikes can be the most dangerous because hikers usually carry minimal supplies. Learn what to pack for a day-hike, what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors. Read "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon). Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. A compass doesn't need a signal, satellites, or batteries and works in all types of weather, day or night, but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Learn how to stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. This book is for all ages. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart."

Star Star Star Star Star
John
Nov 13, 2013

I thought this was a great article. For those of us that only get out there every month or so, it is easy to forget what the 20% of the 80/20 rules are. This article reminded me about several key points that I had forgotten.

Star Star Star
TEEJ
Nov 13, 2013

Whenever I need to be reminded that the wilderness is a death trap, full of dangers that should preclude anyone from venturing in to it's death grip, I know I can find something on Backpacker.

Too much Fear Porn guys.

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