We are slowly losing our wildlife..but also the need to experience it…

All of us, whether we are hikers or just armchair travellers, we all know that the world’s wildlife is in danger.

The threats posed by constant pressures from farming, exploitation, mineral resources etc are erasing the world’s wild places at an alarming rate…I’m sure we have all heard that most famous phrase sometime in our lives that goes “an area the size a 10 football pitches disappears from our jungles every day…”?

But, hang on a minute…there is an even bigger threat to our wild places…it comes from the thing you are reading this article from…yes, your PC, laptop or smartphone.

Increasingly, naturalists, hikers, walkers, climbers are all concerned that wildlife is losing the battle not only with human intervention, but from the virtual world.

What does that mean? Well, people are basically so cut off from their environment by iPads, smartphones, computers and other technological gadgets which demand attention within, excluding that which is without, ie outside.

So much so that many now believe that the loss of ecosystems and environments is paralleled by the expansion of the digital ecosystem.

And the main reason for this can be partly blamed on the unavoidable consequence of a society liberated from laboring on the land like we used to. It is indeed a squeeze on time spent with nature.

One example of this change in our lives is a simple one which we fail to notice….there are no children running around in the woods, like we all used to during our childhood….I and my friends were continually outside, either in the local parks, patches of woodland, farms or other open spaces. Now, farms have suddenly become dangerous environments….even a farmer’s own children don’t play on their father’s farm, for fear of an accident happening and their father being castigated by the health and safety mob.

A fearfully high number of highly-strung people have taken over the local authorities the world over, brewing up a compelling broth that is fed to innocent citizens, feeding their minds with untrue propaganda that vehicular traffic, dangers-of-strangers, tree-climbing, netting of fish or tadpoles in little streams are pastimes all fraught with horrendous dangers.

In my opinion, wildlife will inevitably decline if we carry on becoming oblivious of it like we are…..why? Because when we are oblivious to wildlife, the other factors I mentioned, like exploitation, cut and burn of forests etc, is still going on, and so obviously, the wildlife in those areas will decline.

A very tough situation we are in at the moment, and as always, the citizens are virtually powerless to do anything about it.





Backpacking, climbing, walking and hiking safety

While nothing makes a more memorable backpacking, hiking, or mountain climbing trip that a genuine emergency, ending up dead is not a good story for those involved.

Growing up in the sticks and spending a lot of time outside, I have had a few real emergencies in my life.

I’ve been lost once. I’ve overreached on a hunting trip in cold weather and ended up huddled over a fire to thaw out myself.

Fortunately, I knew where I was as the only thing that I had to start a fire with was my map! However, I am not an expert on mountain climbing, but these tips will work for those brave souls who do participate in this sport.

The first thing that all backpackers, mountain climbers and hikers need is a first aid kit. While most of the stuff in a first aid kit purchased at a large retailer is junk, you do need some antibiotic ointment, sterile bandages, and other first aid items.

You also need the knowledge to make splints for broken legs, treat hypothermia, and more. Knowing the signs of problems and addressing it before it gets out of hand is indispensable, especially in the outdoors.

The second thing that all backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers need is a way to signal for help. Cell phones are unreliable in the middle of nowhere. Not only can there be signal problems, but also batteries die and phones can become broken.

A pocket sized signal mirror is a great item to have in case of emergency. Signal mirrors only cost a few bucks and take up very little space in a backpack or pocket.

The third item is a note. Yes, a note. Not only should people back home know where you are going and when you are coming back, but first responders need help finding you as well.

When going on a mountain climbing, hiking, or backpacking expedition leave information on your route and planned return with a park ranger or other responsible person. If this is not an option, leave this info in plain sight on the dashboard of your vehicle. If theft is a concern (you might not want everyone knowing that you won’t be back to your car in three days) only leave location information in plain sight.

Backpacking, hiking, and mountain climbing are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors, but you want to come home safely. Remember these three items along with the obvious ones to assure a safe return.

This is not a definitive article by all means, but if the information given here can save even one life, then it is worth it’s weight in gold.

A copy of this article also appears in the “Safety and First Aid” page of this blog.

The single most precious item in my backpack!

Hardened hikers and outdoor people will agree with me when I say that one of the most important things that can save your life, and bring you instant comfort and feeling of safety, is a fire.

Whether you light that fire with a fire lighting kit, an old cigarette lighter, rolled up tissues or whatever, once it gets going, you somehow feel so good.

I carry a proper fire lighting kit with me at all times when I’m hiking, but it’s always a good thing to err on the side of safety, and have a standby method as well.

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

For that, I carry storm-proof matches. The pack has 25 matches in a totally waterproof container. There is a striking surface on the outside of the container, but just in case that gets damaged, there are 2 more surfaces inside as well….forward thinking!

The matches are very long-lasting, burning for around 10 to 15 secs and here’s the thing…they will relight after COMPLETE dunking in water!

See them here


Unpredictability of wild animals in the wilderness

Of course we all love to walk and hike in the wilderness.

And quite rightly so; it’s easily one of the most popular pastimes around and harms nobody. It is very good for our health and well-being and also makes us aware of the priceless world we live in, and how we should learn to protect and preserve it as far as possible.

But there are dangers out there, and without making this sound over-dramatic, if we are not prepared, those dangers could, and have, taken lives away.

From uncharted waterways, to hidden cliffs and mountainsides, to wild animals.

Today, I want to talk about the dangers that exist with wild animals. So many lives are lost every year because of attacks from animals in the wilderness, that it shows just how important it is to be ready and prepared just in case.

Let’s use the case of Timothy Treadwell, who had been living with bears for 13 whole summers in Alaska, as an example. His experience of bears was second to none, although he was viewed with incredulity by wildlife experts because of his rather strange ways of behaving in front of the bears.

Timothy was a very enthusiastic and dedicated young man who fell in love with the wilds of Alaska and it’s bears during a trip. The following year, he decided to make another trip there, and it was during this 2nd trip that he worked out that he could obtain an income from this work, by filming and taking photographs of bears going about their lives.

Some people say he was overly friendly with the animals and that was what led to the attack that killed him and his girlfriend in the end. Some say that it was the trust he placed in bears, that was misplaced. Wild animals are wild animals, and only a fool will trust them with his or her life.

With Timothy and his girlfriend, it may have been a mixture of both; too much misplaced trust and confidence, plus the time of year.

It’s well known that just before the start of winter, bears get frustrated and anxious due to the dwindling food supplies, and in order to store enough energy in their bodies before hibernation, they must eat as much as they can.

Perhaps it’s likely that the bear which killed Timothy and his girlfriend had been stalking the pair near their camp, drawn by the smells of food and humans. And of course, Timothy mistakenly thinking that no bear would attack him of all people, probably paid no notice.

Here I have to give one example of an encounter I had once in the wild, with a bear. I was camping together with some friends and had just decided to take a solitary walk away from our tents after lunch. After about half an hour, I was slightly tired and also wanted to take a pee, so I went into some small bushes to do the business.

Afterwards, I found a small rock and thought I’d take a little rest there. I had only been there about 10 or 15 minutes, when I heard a rustling noise just behind where I had urinated. It was then that I realised a sobering thought — I had left my rifle at the camp!

The only weapon of any use I had with me was a bowie knife, which is probably as useful as a toothpick when trying to kill a bear. Anyway, I tried to remain as calm  and still as possible, only shouting and hollering as loud as I could, given how shaken I was. I prayed that it would turn out to be a deer or racoon or something. Soon as the animal heard the shouts, it showed itself, and it was indeed a bear, a black one, confirming my worst fears.

I was probably facing downwind, as the bear was sniffing the air trying to sus out who or what was there, and in doing so, it raised itself on it’s hind legs to get a better view. In all my life, I have never, ever been as frightened as I was on that day. I kept thinking of my friends and family, finding my half eaten remains. This went on for what I thought was a long time, but in my distressed state, it was probably only a few seconds. Slowly, I realised I could either just sit here and act like a 3 course meal on a table for the bear, or I could do something about it. But what?

Don’t ask me how, but at that time, something came over me just then, like an overwhelming rage, and thoughts of how dare this animal try and frighten me coursing through my head! So I stood up, saw some sizeable chunks of rock at my feet, picked them up and threw them with al my strength at the bear. With hindsight, the bear could have easily attacked there and then, and I would have been a dead man within seconds, for he was only 20 or so feet away. But for some odd reason, the bear looked surprised, as the rocks hit him several times on the chest and head.

Seeing this, he dropped on all fours, which I thought signalled an impending attack. But no, to my surprise, the bear sniffed the air a couple times more, turned around and walked away!

I had done it! I had saved myself! Not being very religious, I thanked god and his minions at having helped me in my hour of need. I was filled with adrenaline and stood my ground there for at least another 10  minutes, before coming to my senses and walking slowly back to our camp.

The others thought I had just come back from a walk and laughed and joked at me, until they saw my face close up; I must have been as white as a sheet! I slowly told them what happened and the everyone went deadly quiet!

So, cut a long one short, wild animals; you should never, ever trust them. They can turn at any time, even if you have worked with them for years and know them personally by face. The story of Timothy Treadwell should ring in your ears every time you go out on a hike.

I have a big Alsation at home. He’s my best friend, but I still treat him with respect. He is an animal, a big and very strong animal, and animals can and will turn anytime. Like the guy I saw on TV once who had worked with a particular bear since it was young. One day, he was just playing around with the bear, just like he normally did. The bear was up on his hind legs with his front legs on the zoo keeper’s shoulders. Without any warning, the bear clamped it’s mouth around the keeper’s neck. At first, the other keepers thought there was nothing wrong, as they played like that many times. But this time, the keeper started screaming, the bear did not let go, until another keeper entered the cage and hit it with a metal bar several times on the head. By that time, the first keeper was dead, his main artery having been severed by the animal’s teeth. There is a message here for all of us.

The other thing is being prepared when you are in the wilderness; always, always have a good weapon with you, and by that I mean a powerful rifle. Not a piddly little .45 pistol or suchlike; people have been found dead with pistols in their hands having fired half their shots! The only thing that will stop a large predator is a shotgun, so make a habit fo carrying one with you, even if you are going for a pee.

And the aim is not to get involved at close quarters with an enraged animal; in that scenario, you cannot win, period. If you think there is going to be an attack, do not hesitate to shoot, as once the animal is on you, you are 99.9% guaranteed dead.

That day I was lucky; what I did was foolish to the extreme. I definitely was lucky, you may not be, so please heed what I have written, or if this is not enough, you’re welcome to surf the web and you’ll see how many attacks are often fatal and the danger is real.