Unwelcome Wildlife Encounters

Hey ATRC folks,

I run at night, and when I’m running road, that means I’m often encountering cats. That’s usually no problem. But one night a few days ago, I was running in a particularly wooded area of my parents neighborhood, when I saw a large cat in the middle of the path. I kept running, because usually cats will get out of the way once I start getting closer. But this cat was different from most felines. This one was BIG. And it had a very bushy tail (I could tell because it had turned its butt toward me). But it wasn’t until I was about 10feet away before realizing that it had a long white stripe running down its body, and that it was a much more stinky mammal. I came to a stop so fast I nearly tripped over my own feet. Luckily I didn’t get sprayed, but it was definitely a close call.

(image: This is the kind of cat you don’t want to meet in the dark woods.)

That’s not the only bad encounter I’ve had with wildlife on the trail. Probably the yuckiest experience I’ve had was while backpacking in the southern California desert. I had had hiked late into the night to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. All the nocturnal kangaroo rats had come out, and they were so numerous it was hard not to step on them. Around 11:30 pm I finally had my camp set up (I didn’t set up my tent, just laid out under the stars), and then I went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a sharp sting on my thigh. I turned on my headlamp, looked in my bag, a realized that my thigh was being chewed up by some sort of vampiric fly/moth. I got it off me and grabbed my pack to get a band-aid, and shifted my pillow while doing so. This is when I discovered that a family of cockroaches had decided to take shelter under my pillow that night, and I nearly gagged realizing how close they had been to my face. I decided to move camp, so I packed up, only to discover that those cute little kangaroo rats had chewed the straps on my trekking poles. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.

(image: This is the only animal I’ve forgiven from that night. They’re too cute.)

But probably the scariest encounter I’ve had with wildlife was while backpacking near Devil’s Postpile National Monument. I had settled down for sleep , when I saw a large bush or boulder that I hadn’t seen before. What’s worse, it looked like it was breathing. It turned on my headlamp, and it confirmed my worst fears: that a black bear was hanging out near my camp, hoping to raid my pack for food.

I did what you’re supposed to do in these bear encounters. I yelled and spoke loudly to the bear. I tried to make myself look big. I threw pine cones at it. I even played Ace of Base (The best Swedish reggae-pop fusion band of the mid 90s) at a high volume on my phone. But nothing seemed to work. So in the end, I did what I had done during the night of evil bugs (the previous story I wrote above). I packed up everything and made camp a mile or so further down the trail. Because sometimes, even when faced with a scary situation, the best response is to keep moving.

(image: It just wanted to share my food, right? Nothing to worry about…)

So my question for y’all is: What’s your encounters with unwelcome wildlife? I hope to hear some amazing stories.

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