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Handling Wild Animal Encounters | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Handling Wild Animal Encounters

Every day officers across the nation train for the unexpected. Training in firearms, first aid and vehicle operations all prepare use to face the worse that mankind can throw at us. But are you prepared when the source of the danger is Mother Nature rather than mankind?

BearWhen most officers think of fighting nature they envision flooding rivers, drifting snow storms or twisting high speed winds. But when the source of the danger is a living, breathing animal, it presents an entirely different danger and requires a unique response.  Unfortunately, few officers are trained to deal with wild animals despite the fact that they are an ever present danger in almost every community. Of course rural communities face the greatest possibility of animal encounters, but if your community has a zoo, rehabilitation center or even a private collector in its jurisdiction, the possibility exists for you as well.

The most famous animal encounter in recent years occurred in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011 when the owner of a small zoo opened the cages before committing suicide. All told, officers with the local sheriff’s department were forced to kill a total of 49 animals including wolves, bears, lions, a baboon, mountain lions and even tigers. Of course, it is unlikely you will need to deal with an all hands break-out from your local zoo. However, the need to react is equally important whether you are dealing with 50 animals or 1 large, angry black bear – all that changes is the scope of the mission.

If you find yourself responding to a wild animal terrorizing the local cul-de-sac, the first thing you need to remember is that it is a wild animal, not a human suspect. It will not respond to your commands and it is programmed by nature to do one thing – survive. Sometimes survival means flight, sometimes it means fight. Many times it is impossible to predict which choice it will make. Second, wild animals are not automatically fearful of humans. Most wild animals have little or no contact with humans and have no reason to fear you. Although they may attempt to keep their distance from you or even run and hide, this is simply one side of the “fight or flight” survival mechanism and almost any animal can change tactics instantly. This is especially true if you are dealing with natural predators, such as wolves or large cats.

If you do find it necessary to engage a wild animal, you need to be prepared both mentally and physically to do so successfully. I know that some of you will find it hard to believe, but I have witnessed more than one officer experience a high degree of difficulty pulling the trigger on an animal. While this may seem silly, it is a conditioned response resulting from years of being exposed to cute, cuddly cartoon lions and soft, fuzzy teddy bears. Physically, you need to ensure you have the proper tools for the job and by tools I mean high caliber firearms, preferably long guns. Although your sidearm is capable of taking down large animals, it will require a well-placed shot from a close distance. Furthermore, just as animals have no built in fear of humans, they also have not been conditioned to believe getting shot means dying. This means that even a gravely wounded animal, even one which will eventually die from its wounds, still poses a threat.

Few officers go to work on a given day believing they will be forced to kill; even fewer go to work thinking they will need to kill a wild animal. However, just as you would prepare for the possible kidnapping or potential bank robbery, you should also be prepared to deal with an animal encounter.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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