It’s not the kiwi I am most scared of when hiking, but I noticed that whenever I tell non-hikers of one of my upcoming hikes or back-country travel plan, a concern people often have is the wild animals I could encounter that have the potential to hurt or kill me on trail. Bears, wolves, spiders, mountain lions, snakes, big foot, the loch ness monster, name it.
While these animals can very well harm and kill me if they decide to, the number of hikers that actually get hurt by one of these animals is proportionally not that high. Wild animals, for the most part, tend to go away whenever they hear or smell humans. Luckily for us, they usually hear us well before we know they are there.
I can’t say I am totally comfortable with the possibility of wild animals being around me while I’m sleeping alone in the middle of nowhere. I once spent a sleepless night in the Adirondacks because some animal was running and making noise for most of the night around the area where my tent was. It was dark and I didn’t know what type of animal it was and I was too scared to get out of my tent and chase it off (Funny how I feel a thin layer of nylon or cuben fiber is actually “protecting” me). Recent stories of an Appalachian trail hiker being bitten by a bear while in his tent don’t particularly make me want to run to this area to hike. Whenever I am hiking in bear territory I remind myself of the basic safety rules and always follow those. Most of the time, properly storing your food and not setting up your tent in animal paths or close to water will be sufficient to keep you safe.
The animal I am actually most scared of while hiking is the dog. On all my hikes, my only stressful encounters with animals so far have been with dogs. Although I have never been bitten, I have had a couple close calls that make me both more weary and scared of these animals. I have also had encounters with bears, but so far they have been peaceful.
While most dogs won’t cause any problem, the issue with dogs is that you don’t know their intentions until they are really close to you. And a pack of six farm dogs running at you with no dog owner in sight is unnerving. But as the farmer later told me: “The only thing my dogs would do to you is lick you to death”.
So watch out out there, you could get licked to death!