(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)
Animals rarely are as threatening to the survivor as the rest
of the environment. Common sense tells the survivor to avoid
encounters with bears, and other large or dangerous animals.
You should also avoid large grazing animals with horns, hooves,
and great weight. Your actions may prevent unexpected meetings.
Move carefully through their environment. Do not attract large
predators by leaving food lying around your camp. Carefully survey
the scene before entering water or forests.
Smaller animals actually present more of a threat to the survivor
than large animals. To compensate for their size, nature has
given many small animals weapons such as fangs and stingers to
defend themselves. Each year, a few people are bitten by sharks,
mauled by alligators, and attacked by bears. Most of these incidents
were in some way the victims fault.
However, each year more victims die from bites by relatively
small venomous snakes than by large dangerous animals. Even more
victims die from allergic reactions to bee stings. For this reason,
we will pay more attention to smaller and potentially more dangerous
creatures. These are the animals you are more likely to meet
as you unwittingly move into their habitat, or they slip into
your environment unnoticed.
Keeping a level head and an awareness of your surroundings
will keep you alive if you use a few simple safety procedures.
Do not let curiosity and carelessness kill or injure you.
INSECTS AND ARACHNIDS
You recognize and identify insects, except centipedes and
millipedes, by their six legs while arachnids have eight. All
these small creatures become pests when they bite, sting, or
Although their venom can be quite painful, bee, wasp, and
hornet stings rarely kill a survivor unless he is allergic to
that particular toxin. Even the most dangerous spiders rarely
kill, and the effects of tick-borne diseases are very slow-acting.
However, in all cases, avoidance is the best defense. In environments
known to have spiders and scorpions, check your foot gear and
clothing every morning. Also check your bedding and shelter for
them. Use care when turning over rocks and logs.
You can find desert scorpions from below sea level in Death
Valley to elevations as high as 3,600 meters in the Andes. Typically
brown or black in moist areas, they may be yellow or light green
in the desert. Their average size is about 2.5 centimeters. Fatalities
from scorpion stings are rare, but they can occur in children,
the elderly, and ill persons. Scorpions resemble small lobsters
with raised, jointed tails bearing a stinger in the tip. Nature
mimics the scorpions with whip scorpions or vinegar-roons. These
are harmless and have a tail like a wire or whip, rather than
the jointed tail and stinger of true scorpions.
You recognize the brown recluse or fiddleback spider of North
America (Loxosceles reclusa) by a prominent violin-shaped light
spot on the back of its body. As its name suggests, this spider
likes to hide in dark places. Though rarely fatal, its bite causes
excessive tissue degeneration around the wound and can even lead
to amputation of the digits if left untreated.
You find members of the widow family (Latrodectus species)
worldwide, though the black widow of North America is perhaps
the most well-known. Found in warmer areas of the world, the
widows are small, dark spiders with often hourglass-shaped white,
red, or orange spots on their abdomens.
Bees, Wasps, and Hornets
We are all familiar with bees, wasps, and hornets. They come
in many varieties and have a wide diversity of habits and habitats.
You recognize bees by their hairy and usually thick body, while
the wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets have more slender, nearly
hairless, bodies. Some bees, such as honeybees, live in colonies.
They may be either domesticated or living wild in caves or hollow
trees. You may find other bees, such as carpenter bees, in individual
nest holes in wood, or in the ground, like bumblebees. The main
danger from bees is their barbed stinger located on their abdomens.
When the bee stings you, it rips its stinger out of its abdomen
along with the venom sac, and the bee dies. Except for killer
bees, most bees tend to be more docile than wasps, hornets, and
yellow jackets that have smooth stingers and are capable of repeated
Avoidance is the best tactic for self-protection. Watch out
for flowers or fruit where bees may be feeding. Be careful of
meat-eating yellow jackets when cleaning fish or game. The average
person has a relatively minor and temporary reaction to bee stings
and recovers in a couple of hours when the pain and headache
go away. Those who are allergic to bee venom have severe reactions
including anaphylactic shock, coma, and death. If antihistamine
medicine is not available and you cannot find a substitute, an
allergy sufferer in a survival situation is in grave danger.
Ticks are common in the tropics and temperate regions. They
are familiar to most of us. Ticks are small round arachnids with
eight legs and can have either a soft or hard body. Ticks require
a blood host to survive and reproduce. This makes them dangerous
because they spread diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain
spotted fever, encephalitis, and others that can ultimately be
disabling or fatal. There is little you can do to treat these
diseases once contracted, but time is your ally since they are
slow-acting ailments. According to most authorities, it takes
at least 6 hours of attachment to the host for the tick to transmit
the disease organisms. Thus, you have time to thoroughly inspect
your body for their presence. Beware of ticks when passing through
the thick vegetation they cling to, when cleaning host animals
for food, and when gathering natural materials to construct a
shelter. Always use insect repellents, if possible.
Leeches are blood-sucking creatures with a worm-like appearance.
You find them in the tropics and in temperate zones. You will
certainly encounter them when swimming in infested waters or
making expedient water crossings. You can find them when passing
through swampy, tropical vegetation and bogs. You can also find
them while cleaning food animals, such as turtles, found in fresh
water. Leeches can crawl into small openings; therefore, avoid
camping in their habitats when possible. Keep your trousers tucked
in your boots. Check yourself frequently for leeches. Swallowed
or eaten, leeches can be a great hazard. It is therefore essential
to treat water from questionable sources by boiling or using
chemical water treatments. Survivors have developed severe infections
from wounds inside the throat or nose when sores from swallowed
leeches became infected.
Steve's Notes: Leeches carry no known viruses, so
there is little direct danger from their bite. The danger is
only in the possibility of infection in the wound later.
There are no infallible rules for expedient identification
of poisonous snakes in the field, because the guidelines all
require close observation or manipulation of the snakes
body. The best strategy is to leave all snakes alone. Where snakes
are plentiful and poisonous species are present, the risk of
their bites negates their food value. Apply the following safety
rules when traveling in areas where there are poisonous snakes:
Walk carefully and watch where you step. Step onto logs rather
than over them before looking and moving on.
Look closely when picking fruit or moving around water.
Do not tease, molest, or harass snakes. Snakes cannot close
their eyes. Therefore, you cannot tell if they are asleep. Some
snakes, such as mambas, cobras, and bushmasters, will attack
aggressively when cornered or guarding a nest.
Use sticks to turn logs and rocks.
Wear proper foot gear, particularly at night.
Carefully check bedding, shelter, and clothing.
Be calm when you encounter serpents. Snakes cannot hear and
you can occasionally surprise them when they are sleeping or
sunning. Normally, they will flee if given the opportunity.
Use extreme care if you must kill snakes for food or safety.
Although it is not common, warm, sleeping human bodies occasionally
The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectrum) of the American southwest,
including Mexico, is a large lizard with dark, highly textured
skin marked by pinkish mottling. It averages 35 to 45 centimeters
in length and has a thick, stumpy tail. Unlikely to bite unless
molested, it has a poisonous bite.
Mexican Beaded Lizard
The Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum) resembles its
relative, the Gila monster. It has more uniform spots rather
than bands of color (the Gila monster). It also is poisonous
and has a docile nature. You find it from Mexico to Central America.
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