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Canadian Wilderness Dangers – 15 Things that can kill you

The Canadian wilderness is dangerous, right? Do you want to know about the possible dangers?

Wilderness Dangers Lone Cowgirl
Canadian Wilderness Dangers luring

So what makes it so dangerous? What is out there that can – supposedly – kill you, what are the dangers of the Backcountry?

Some of the dangers you can probably guess, others I bet you don’t. Lots of it may not be what you expected at all.

Despite what they say, Canada can be pretty dangerous. In fact, it might even be its middle name. We often forget that the vast majority of Canada’s geography is essentially wilderness and home to a wide variety of wild animals.

The most dangerous creatures in Canada are mentioned here, tremble in fear.

Canadians are able to live in harmony with their animal neighbours for the most part. However, violent contact between humans and animals is quite common. Canada’s large animal population can make something as simple as driving, extremely dangerous. Please Drive Safely – Yield to Wildlife!

1. Cougars

Cougars - danger in the wilderness
You only want to come across a cougar when he is asleep

First-time visitors to Canada often don’t know that we have Cougars here. The cougar is definitely one of the topmost dangerous animals in Canada. Nearly 40 % of all cougar attacks in North America occur in British Columbia.

Living in Cougar country myself I have seen them frequently. Typically around November, they are seen in the area or a few deer kills let us guess that they are around. Usually, they don’t stick around for long before they move on to other territories.

Cougars will stalk their prey, and then rapidly charge. Children are particularly vulnerable to Cougar attacks, because of their size. If you ever find yourself on the wrong side of a cougar assault, your best bet is to make yourself look big and fight back. Playing dead seems not to be an effective strategy with cougars.

2. Bears – Grizzlies and Blacks

Canadian Wilderness - Bear dangers
Black bear sightings are common

Be aware that you entered the land of grizzlies and black bears, and other wild animals freely roaming their territories. We are the intruders here. When driving across the land always remember, that the road is not only for cars here in Canada.

If you are not in a city, you are in bear country. Both species, grizzlies, and blacks can be dangerous. Although the black bear gets less respect, he is one of the top most dangerous creatures in Canada. Black Bears are responsible for at least 10 Canadian deaths in the past 10 years.

Know what to do if you come across a bear. Don’t surprise bears. Make noise, travel in groups, don’t crowd a bear.
Never approach a bear to take a close-up picture, use a zoom lens instead.
Do not attract a bear.

According to a University of Calgary study, there were 63 deaths from bear attacks in all of North America between 1900 and 2009.

For more Wildlife tips visit Canadian Wildlife

4. Polar Bears

Polar Bear dangers
Polar bears are not a normal sight in Canada

You have a small chance of running into a polar bear in Canada because polar bears live up north. The fact is that the ice caps where polar bears used to hunt for seals are melting. Therefore, polar bears are moving closer to human civilization.

Polar Bear attacks on humans are rare, mostly because there just aren’t large numbers of Canadians living up north. However, when Polar Bear attacks do happen, they’re nasty.

I heard the story, that in 2003, a Nunavut man on a caribou hunt was attacked by a polar bear while inside his tent. The bear targeted the man’s neck and jumped up and down on his chest several times, breaking his ribs. Although the Nunavut man survived the bear attack, 300 stitches were required to reattach his scalp to his head. Ouch.

Polar bears can be found in James Bay to northern Ellesmere Island, and from Labrador to the Alaskan border. Churchill Manitoba, on the western coast of Hudson Bay.

Still, don’t let those dangers scare you.

5. Wolfes

Wolfs in the Canadian Wilderness
Wolves are common in certain parts of Canada

Both the eastern wolf and the Arctic wolf call Canada home. Wolf experts say that attacks on humans are rare and fatalities involving wild wolves are virtually unheard of. Still, wolves have been known to act aggressively toward humans if they feel threatened, but they rarely attack.

Living and travelling in packs of 3-7 wolves within distinct hierarchical structures, there is always a dominant male and breeding female. Being the largest of the dog family, most animals that wolves are after (marmots, hares, badgers, foxes, weasels, ground squirrels, mice, and hamsters) can outrun them. To make up for this disadvantage, wolves hunt together in a pack and take turns chasing the prey.

6. Moose

Moose Yukon Canada
The Canadian Moose, Canada’s national mascot

Though we often use the moose as a kind of national mascot, moose are also easily one of the topmost dangerous animals in Canada. Like the white-tailed deer, moose are especially dangerous to motorists: 700 Moose-vehicle collisions occur annually in Newfoundland and Labrador alone.

However, moose are also dangerous off the road. Weighing around 600 kilograms, moose are known to charge when they feel threatened or cornered. In addition to its imposing antlers, a moose can also kick either with its front feet or its back feet, meaning they can hurt you in a variety of ways. Don’t take the dangers moose can cause lightly.

7. Elk

Elk - Canada Dangers
beautiful elk, watch but don’t approach

Because we see elk a lot in the Canadian backcountry, we may have a tendency to underestimate how dangerous they really are. You wouldn’t know it from the silvery, circular portraits on the coins you carry around in your pockets, but the Elk is one of the largest mammals in North America, weighing as much as half a ton.

The elk is not afraid of human beings. Parks Canada warns visitors not to approach Elk at any time, under any circumstances, as they can be aggressive and will charge. Males are particularly dangerous during the late-summer mating season, and females are especially troublesome during the spring calving season. Show respect, like with any other wild animal!

8. Wolverines

Wolverines are short and stout but can be dangerous. They have long claws on each paw and their well-developed neck and shoulder muscles are so strong that they can chew through frozen animal meat, which is an essential survival skill in Canada’s winter months. Wolverines are characteristically fierce and known to be aggressive enough to drive bears away from their own kills.

Lucky for us, wolverines are scavengers and are rarely spotted by humans. Let’s hope it stays that way.

9. Venomous Snakes

All of the following snakes are at risk, due mainly to habitat destruction.

  • Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

This snake can measure more than 1.6 m in length and can be found in interior British Columbia. They prefer short-grass prairie and dry, open scrubland. When disturbed, Northern Pacific rattlesnakes defend themselves by coiling, vibrating their rattle and striking. While their bites are seldom fatal, you should always be cautious when around these snakes.

  • Massasauga Rattle Snake

    Mainly limited to the Georgian Bay area of Ontario, Massasaugas seldom grow longer than 75 cm. They are commonly found near water. They are not aggressive snakes by nature and will often remain motionless if someone walks by. However, they will coil and can strike if they feel threatened. While bites are treatable, at least two Canadians have died after being bitten by the Massasauga Rattler.

  • Desert Night Snake

    Limited to a small portion of southern British Columbia, this snake measures between 25.5 cm and 53 cm in length. They like hot, dry areas and they are active mainly at night and are therefore seldom seen. Their saliva is slightly toxic, so take care if you happen upon one.

10. Poisonous Spiders

According to studies, medically serious spider bites are rare in Canada. While several spiders in Canada are venomous, the only one that poses a significant risk is the black widow, found in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

The black widow spiders will avoid people if they can.

The bite, especially from a female spider, can cause nausea, sweating, dizziness, swelling, headaches, muscle pain, abnormal heartbeats and tremors.

In extreme cases where it goes untreated, especially among small children, a black widow bite can be fatal. Luckily there is an anti-venom available.

Rick Vetter’s spider research website is an excellent place to find anything you need to know about spiders – http://spiders.ucr.edu/

11. Mosquitoes

They can eat you alive! With mosquitoes carrying diseases like West Nile mosquitoes are one of the deadliest insects in Canada.

Most people infected with the virus have no symptoms or they have flu-like symptoms. Sometimes though, the virus can cause severe illness, resulting in hospitalization and even death so it is important to know the symptoms of illness related to infection and how to minimize your risk, especially if virus activity is reported in an area near you.

Depending on location and time of year will determine the mosquito situation. The Yukon is known as extreme, so go prepared and stock up on the best repellent you can get.

12. The Climate

Climate dangers
Canada gets extreme climate variations

Canadian Climate can be extreme, extremely hot in summer and very cold in winter. Especially in the Prairie Provinces, there are few natural barriers to winds, allowing them to sweep down from the Arctic in wintertime.

The combination of very low temperatures and high wind speed is dangerous – and can be life-threatening. Weather forecasters issue warnings not to venture out in such conditions.

BC’s interior is very dry and hot and we are always worried about forest fires.

Be sure to know what to expect and come prepared. Check out Canada Climate and weather and the local weather forecast before venturing to remote areas.

13. The Dangers OF The Deadly Wilderness

Well, getting lost in the backcountry and all you have in the glove box is a bar of chocolate and a can of Coke, then your situation is not looking good. You may even die.

If you step out onto a busy road from between parked cars, you also have a good chance of dying. What I’m trying to say, carelessness and stupidity can kill. What else is new?

Travelling into very remote regions in the Canadian Backcountry does require planning and some common sense. Follow a few simple rules and there will be nothing dangerous about a visit to any remote wilderness area.

14. Mad Backcountry Killers

Even if the “Pig Farmer” series was based on a true story, does that mean Canada’s backcountry is full of mad killers?

It seems some people draw that conclusion. It’s a matter of fact that drugs and sick minds have always been around, in any country. The Canadian Backcountry has its hazards, but people are not one of them. The chance to come across a disturbed mind, that someone losing it and harming people is much bigger in the cities and populated areas.

I have lived in the backcountry since 1999, I travelled and hitchhiked and spend lots of time in the wilderness. I never much liked the big cities or the touristy areas. Actually, I suspect that these areas have more dangers waiting than the wilderness does.

No matter how many sick movies are made, I would not hesitate for a second to stick out my thumb along any backcountry road. Country folks here are different. It’s the world like it should be, where people take an interest in each other, trust each other and help each other. That’s why I live here.

To think that taking the actions of one mentally sick person, and drawing conclusions about the population of a whole nation, needs a reality check.

A movie is a movie, and mentally disturbed people can live anywhere.

15. Lack of Common Sense

Don’t worry about the dangers of bears, snakes, spiders, and killers. Treat wild animals with adequate respect. The things that are likely to get you into trouble are not what you think.

It’s the heat, the cold, the distances, and the fact that Canada is thinly populated and such a large country, that are the dangers.
It’s not the Canadian Wilderness that is dangerous, but people who do dangerous or plain stupid things. The problem with common sense is that it is often lacking.

A lack of common sense is dangerous. It can kill you dead!

Related Links

Canadian WildlifeCanada Maps
Canada Facts you want to knowBest Travel Tips
Wilderness Camping in the WildBackcountry Outdoor Store

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