You are scrambling over some rocks while out on your adventure when you jump down only to be met with a sudden stinging pain and a chorus of tiny maracas. You have been bitten, but unfortunately for your girlfriend you won’t become a sparkly, moping vampire, you will begin to develop necrosis (the death of skin and muscle tissue cells around the bite area).
So what are you to do now that you’ve been bitten? First move away from the snake. The snake bit you because he felt threatened, not because he thought you would taste delicious.
After moving away, remember this next step through the rest of our snake encounter. In the words of the great Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”
A lot of old timers will tell you that you need to kill or capture the snake to bring with you to the Emergency Room. This is as bad as drunkenly texting your ex at 3am. The thing is they estimate that 20-25% of pit viper (rattlesnakes, copperheads) and 50% of coral snake bites are dry bites (the snake does not use venom). So chasing a snake around is sure to increase the likelihood that it will use venom. Just note the description of the snake and stay away. In North America there is only one type antivenom that treats bites from rattlesnakes, copperheads and cotton-mouth/water moccasins. The only outlying snake would be the coral snake.
Do not attempt to “suck” the venom out of the bite. While this makes for an entertaining comedy trope, it is not accepted first aid.
Some more old practices that we now know to be bad are:
- Do not put ice on the bite.
- Do not try to “bleed” out the poison by cutting between the fang marks.
- Do not use alcohol.
- DO NOT TOURNIQUET THE AFFECTED LIMB!
What you should do is remove anything that can become constrictive in the event of swelling (things like rings).
Attempt to immobilize the bitten area without constricting the flow of blood. Seek immediate medical attention from the local Emergency Room.
Remember throughout the event the key is to remain calm and don’t panic.
If you intentionally own two or more pairs of Running Shoes, then you probably know who Caballo Blanco is. Caballo Blanco is the nickname of ultra running legend Micah True whom went on to become the mystical central figure of Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”.
Micah True lived a life without materialism and in pursuit of passion. With the decision to eschew a normative American life he developed a bit of a following not unlike that of Christopher McCandless. For a man who lived a fairly private life this lead to complications but also the ability to use his celebrity to further causes he cared about, like protecting Copper Canyon in Mexico. Unfortunately, just as he spend a large portion of his time running alone through the mountains his life would end the same way.
On May 27, 2012 True left the Wilderness Lodge in the Gila Wilderness, part of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, for a 12-mile run. After he failed to return to the lodge a large search and rescue operation was launched in an attempt to locate him. On March 31st, after searching a 200,000-acre area, they finally found his body alongside a stream. True had died from complications related to a heart disorder.
Could True have been saved? That is something we will never know, but what we can learn from it is the importance of notifying people as to where you are.
When I was younger I used to go solo hiking all the time, and I would often write up my where I was and my proposed route and when to contact help if I had not returned. I would then tape it to my roommate’s door and begin my adventure. Fortunately I never needed assistance but at least rescuers would not waste valuable time searching other areas.
Aron Ralston famously gave a vague description of his weekend itinerary in Utah and found his arm pinned under a boulder in a canyon. While searchers looked elsewhere, Ralston was forced to cut his own arm off to escape the predicament.
Today it is even easier to let people know you need help. There is a great app called Bugle. This app allows you to put in your important information, such as where you are going and when you plan to return. If you do not check in with the app in time it will automatically send alert notifications to your emergency contacts telling them they should check in with you and where you said you would be. The app is free so there are no excuses for an adventurer to not use it.
So unless you enjoy drinking your own urine or you’ve always wanted to attempt a major surgery on yourself, tell someone where you are going.
It’s all fun when you are kicking it with your friends and beers, but it’s never fun and when you are kicking and screaming with your friends and bears. So here are some basic bear safety tips.
I think bears are about one of the coolest animals in North America. The Grizzly and Kodiak bears are badass apex predators that put mankind in check. There is a majestic feeling that comes from being in their presence, maybe its because we’ve gotten too comfy at the top of the food chain and that reminder that there are other creatures that can rip us apart without hesitation excites us. Maybe it’s because most of us spent the first few years of our lives carrying around a Teddy Bear everywhere we went. I do not know the real reason but one must tread lightly when dealing with bears and respect them.
1) Make Noise: Do you like it when someone sneaks up on you and surprises you? Now imagine that you are an 800-pound creature who is guided by their amygdala. It’s fight or flight and your opponent is half your size. Making noise will tell the bears that you are in the area and typically they will avoid you.
2) Stop playing with dead things. Remember that time your sibling/roommate ate the last piece of cake that you were thinking about all day. Initially you probably thought of smashing something heavy over their head and then the rational side of your brain kicked in and you did not have time for a trial and lengthy prison stay. Well bears are not constrained by a penal code so when you impede on their food, they will defend it, but unlike an angry roommate you cannot talk your way out of this one.
3) Do not bait in the bears. Bears have a great sense of smell and will scavenge food. So pack out your trash. Also when in bear country, store your food in a bear bag and hang it away from your camp. Remember you are in the bear’s house, not your house.
4) Take Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino’s advice and be extremely weary from dusk till dawn. Bears are large, furry mammals so during the summer months they tend to be fairly inactive during the day and more active at night. So when in bear country attempt to do most of your traveling during daylight hours. This also improves your chance of spotting a bear before they see you.
5) STAY ALERT, STAY ALIVE! The problem with bears is that they live in some of the most beautiful areas of North America, so if you visit these areas you must tread lightly. Remember you are in nature to experience it so unless you want the latest album from The Weekend to be the last thing you ever hear, take out the headphones and pay attention.
6) DO NOT RUN! Seriously, move away cautiously, but do not run away. Bears are like cops in that way. If the police roll up and you run away you look guilty and in need of chasing.
As an avid adventure seeker I have found myself in many misadventures. While they can leave with you better memories than the intended adventure, they can also leave you seriously injured or with a one-way ticket off this mortal coil. So what I want do is use real world incidents to Monday-morning-quarterback what was done well and what could have been done to prevent, avoid or get out of the situation.
This blog is in no way intended to ridicule or denigrate the parties involved. This is an attempt for us to learn and hopefully prevent future disasters. Also while I will make every attempt to fact check the advice I give I realize that I am not infallible. If you notice misinformation please send me a correction with your source so I can correct it.
Also if you want me to answer any questions or have content that may be of interest to the blog please leave it in the comments section.