Is danger really lurking in the ‘woods primeval’

Autumn is the season when probably the most people visit the woodlands. Whether it’s to hike, view fall foliage, photograph or hunt, it is usually the most pleasant time to be there. The temperatures are comfortable, there’s low humidity and no biting insects.

But for some people, being in the deeper portions of the bigger woods spawns a certain degree of discomfort, be it fear of becoming lost or, more often for some, of encountering a wild animal. Much like the “lions and tigers and bears … oh my!” segment in the “Wizard of Oz,” the mind may wonder what creatures may be lurking nearby in those dark forest shadows? And more importantly, do they represent any danger to me?

Like many sportsmen and outdoors people, I’ve spent a good portion of my life wandering the woods, both in daylight and, when hunting raccoon, at night. My biggest fear, if you could call it that, was surprising a skunk at close range. I’ve been startled at night by bedded deer that launched at close range and went crashing off, and by ground-roosting grouse that flushed so close I felt the wind created by their rapid wing beats. Other than that, my times spent in the woods have been very docile.

But there are still people who have an unnatural fear of wild animals, especially those sporting sharp teeth. We don’t have many lions and tigers, but we do have black bears, and encountering one can be exciting to say the least, and for some, frightening to say the most. The same can be said of encountering an large adult coyote, which will appear very similar to a grey wolf. But aside from obviously sick specimens, that should always be avoided, just how dangerous are these two animals?

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