Outdoor World

From bears to hippos: the expert guide to surviving killer beasts

Former soldier and explorer Levison Wood runs through how to endure or avoid confrontation with some of natures most dangerous animals

Carpathian mountains

When Andi Bauer, a German student hiking in Romania, was attacked by a bear, his girlfriend Lara Booth yelled punch it in the eye! (Lara is British, obviously). He did, the bear stopped attacking and Andi was helicoptered to hospital where rods were screwed into his broken leg. He survived, but was punching back the right thing to do? If youre being mauled by a bear, youve got to do what youve got to do, to escape and survive, says Levison Wood. A former soldier, explorer and writer (his book for kids, Incredible Journeys, is published this week), Wood once had an encounter in a car park in Yosemite when a bear smashed into the adjacent empty car to get food. We woke up and made a lot of noise, as bears do try to avoid humans. But each animal is different; youve got to know your stuff. Heres his guide to fighting off some of natures most-feared beasts.


Wood knows some stuff about crocodiles, having avoided them while walking the length of the Nile. And that is his advice: avoid them. If you go to get water at a place where animals drink, there might be crocodiles there that have been waiting there for days and you might be done for, he says. Be a bit clever: go to a less obvious place for water, where they wouldnt wait for prey.


One of the biggest killers in Africa, because they are so fast and very territorial. What should you do? Run as fast as you can, try to get on to some high ground. When Wood was chased by a hippo, he scrambled up a hill. Theyre not good with hills, thankfully.


Make noise, says Wood, and they will avoid you. Unless it is a fer-de-lance, or bothrops asper, a nasty pit viper found in Central and South America. Theyre the only snake to go out of their way to come after you; theyre very territorial. On a trip in the Panamanian jungle, one went for Woods guide, who was, luckily, wearing baggy tracksuit bottoms so the snakes fangs didnt get into his flesh.

Big cats

These will often come at you from behind, says Wood. You could do what they do in parts of Bangladesh, where the local workers wear masks on the back of their heads, to stop leopards and tigers attacking them.


One of Woods biggest fears, thanks to his grandfather who made him watch Jaws when he was about 10. He has heard that you are supposed to punch them on the nose. But Im not sure what state of mind you have to be in to literally get it on the nose.

In general

Stay calm, act rationally, stick to trails and dont wander off on your own, as you are much less likely to be attacked if there are more than one of you, he says. Respect the environment you are in. Most of the animals weve spoken about are critically endangered. While the fear is bred into us, remember that theyre the ones that are endangered, we generally come off better than they do. Yes, Bauer is OK. But what about the poor bear wandering the Carpathian mountains with a sore head?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2019/jun/10/from-bears-to-hippos-the-expert-guide-to-surviving-killer-beasts

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