10 Furry Creatures to Avoid in the Woods

10 Furry Creatures to Avoid in the Woods

Posted by Paul Miller on Sep 24th 2018

Just because they look cute and cuddly doesn’t mean they want to be your friend. Being mammals ourselves, we have a certain affinity for furry animals and our love for cats and dogs gives us a sense of calm and compassion for other hairy critters. However, the forest is full of furry creatures that appear friendly but are actually ready to ruin your day if you get too close.

1) Bears

To start our list, bears of all kinds should be treated with respect and given plenty of space. North America is home to three different kinds of bears and each is dangerous in their own regard. While you are quite unlikely to run into a polar bear on a hike or camping trip, brown and black bears are abundant throughout American and Canada and pose a threat to humans who get too close. Their massive size and incredible biting and clawing power mean you don’t have much of a chance to beat one in a fight. Remember, always give bears a wide berth and, even though they look cute, avoid grabbing your camera and chasing one down for a picture.

2) Cougars

Also known as mountain lions, these cats are a long way from the cuddly companion you might have at home. They like to ambush their prey and leap out of trees or pounce from hiding spots. With enough power to easily take down a deer or an elk, their sharp claws and crushing bite can make quick work of an unsuspecting hiker. Luckily, cougar attacks on humans are quite rare and they only attack when they are either starving or feel threatened. If you run into one on the trail, make yourself as big as you can and yell at it to scare it away. If you run away or play dead, the cougar will see you as an easy meal.

3) American Bison

Even though these seemingly docile creatures are herbivores, they are the largest land mammal in North America and can become quite aggressive during mating season or when protecting their young. They can run more than 40 miles per hour and jump low fences. These animals have long horns capable of delivering a nasty goring and their huge weight, sometimes more than 1 ton, make getting trampled a possibly deadly experience. There has been a large increase is bison related injuries and deaths in recent years, especially around Yellowstone National Park. Many people think these wild animals are just like furry cows and want to get a picture with one, often with disastrous consequences. Just like a bear, give them lots of space and avoid the urge to get a bison selfie.

4) Wolverine

This animal has been getting a lot of attention recently due to its X-Men counterpart. While it doesn’t have healing powers or long, metallic claws, it does share the aggression and deadliness of its superhero brother. Wolverines are known to have no fear and will attack animals many times larger than itself using its razor-sharp claws to slash and tear into their prey. There are several reports of a single wolverine taking down a full grown grizzly bear. They are also known to be voracious eaters and stuff themselves with meat even after they are satisfied. In addition, they have specialized molars used to crush bones. However, they are not known to attack humans unless they feel threatened.

5) Skunks

While not inherently dangerous, skunks are definitely a furry creature that you should avoid because of their ability to spray a horrific smelling musk at any possible threat, including dogs and humans. Since these animals are slow moving and don’t have a powerful bite, their spray is their defense mechanism. If threatened, the skunk will raise its tail and point its butt towards the threat and shoot a stream of the pungent liquid to scare away the attacker. Skunks are able to spray at a distance of around 10 feet, even causing temporary blindness if the liquid gets in your eyes. The smell is so powerful it can be detected by the human nose more than 3 miles away. And, if the smell wasn’t bad enough, skunks are some of the most common carriers of rabies, so keep yourself and your dogs well away from them. If you or your pet gets sprayed by a skunk, the old advice was to take a bath in tomato juice. However, modern science has deemed this method mostly ineffective and recommends mixing hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and a bit of dish soap to remove the stench.

6) Gray Wolf

These fearsome creatures can be found around the Great Lakes, in the Rocky Mountains, and the American Southwest and are stealthy pack hunters. These are the largest wild canines in America and their powerful teeth and jaws have the biting power twice that of a German Shepard, easily breaking bones and tearing through flesh. In addition, they are very fast and can jump great distances. While one wolf is scary, they often travel in packs and hunt as a team, making them even more terrifying. They are cunning hunters and will trap their prey, leaving them with nowhere to run. Although attacks on humans are rare, they are not unheard of. If you hear a wolf howl, you know you are in their territory and need to be on your guard.

7) Porcupine

Similar to a skunk, these animals won’t claw or bite you, but have another kind of defense. These forest dwelling, mostly nocturnal rodents are covered in up to 30,000 barbed spines, called quills, which detach and pierce any animal or human foolish enough to get to close or try to bite them. They are pretty slow moving and rely on their quills to stay safe, so offensive attacks are quite rare. However, they can swing their spiky tail to fend off attackers. In addition, porcupines are very clever and are able to learn quickly, often equating campsite and hiking trails as a good place to find an easy meal. Even though they are mostly a danger for dogs who come in for a closer look, humans can get stabbed by inadvertently walking to close them in the dark. Luckily, contrary to popular myth, the porcupine is unable to shoot their quills at potential attackers.

8) Moose and Elk

While these two animals may just seem like large deer, they can be quite dangerous. During mating season in the fall or if they have young to protect during the spring, they can be quite territorial and aggressive if you are in their space. Their large antlers make excellent goring weapons and they use their powerful legs and hooves to kick and slash. Weighing close to a ton, a single kick from one of the creatures is more than enough to break bones or cause life-threatening injuries. If you see a moose or elk, don’t get too close and try to keep your dogs from barking at it. They will only attack when they feel threatened and the only way to protect yourself from them is to try to outrun them and, if caught and knocked over, curl into a ball and protect your head and neck from getting trampled. Most moose and elk related death are from car accidents, as they have a tendency to saunter across major roads and show little regard for passing cars.

9) Wild Boars

Not native to North America, domesticated pigs came over with Spanish and English colonists and some escaped into the wild, turning feral. They are successful hunters and foragers and their population is now more than 5 million and live in most areas in America. They are popular game animals and, in many states, hunters are actually encouraged to kill them because their population is too high and they are hurting the native environment. But just because they are hunted doesn’t mean they are easy prey. They can weigh up to several hundred pounds and travel in large packs. Also, they have sharp tusks that can cause serious wounds to humans and even kill dogs. Like many of the other animals on this list, they are most dangerous during mating season and when they have young to protect. Even though you may think a pig is a pig and are friendly farm animals, wild boars are anything but.

10) White-Tailed Deer

Statistically speaking, you are more likely to be killed by a deer than any of the other animals on this list. Every year, 100-200 people are killed by a deer. While large male deer might charge you in mating season and give you a nasty poke with their antlers or kick with their hooves, the most common deer related deaths are from traffic accidents. White-tailed deer are notorious for leisurely crossing a road and standing directly in front of oncoming traffic. On average, there are more than 1 million deer related car crashes each year. Since deer are so widespread throughout North America, always be on high alert for deer when driving once you are outside of a major metropolitan area. Most collisions occur around dusk during the fall months, so drive with care and always be ready for one of these cold-blooded killers to leap out of the forest and onto the road without warning.