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Old 12-11-2012, 03:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Hats off to those of you who have to deal with wildlife. I live in cougar area, but while they are a problem with sheep and calves, I've never heard of one attacking a dog, even less a human. Ngenechen also blessed us with no venomous critters of any kind.
Venomous snakes were our main concern, especially when we were going to the pond to fish. The bigger predators weren't much of an issue except on "pack years", when the squirrel and rabbit populations were down and the coyotes would pack up to hunt larger prey. Mainly our calves, but dad didn't take any chances and we all knew how to shoot by the time we were 8.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:36 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Regarding dangerous subjects, I think that's just a risk you take. If the authorities have reason to believe that the person may be dangerous, either they won't call out civilian volunteers or they'll institute other safety procedures (usually the former, from what I know...I've only heard of the latter once, and then it was actually a cadaver search where there was just a very remote possibility that a dangerous person might still be in the area, so each team was accompanied by police, but I don't have the experience some people here do so I may be wrong!).

You will almost certainly not be permitted to carry a gun on a search. Our state requires a knife as part of your pack equipment, but we're talking like pocket knife--not something you'd want to plan on using for defense.

I guess I just never really worried about it, any more than I worry about stumbling across some pot growers or bumping into a wandering crazy in the throes of meth psychosis while I'm hiking, both of which have actually happened to me (well, with the marijuana I didn't find the growers, I found the patch and got the heck out of there!). I've been on searches for drug addicts and for people with known mental illnesses which aren't under control, and while there's always the potential for erratic or violent behavior, well...some panicked lost hiker with a gun might shoot you because they hear you in the brush and think you're a bear, too. Random intentional violence is pretty rare even among the mentally ill--even in the example cited in the OP, you can't say for sure that the searchers were in danger if his psychosis was manifesting in such a specific way (although I don't blame them for being freaked out, because there's no indication they weren't in danger either).

Actually, one of the big debates I hear out west is whether to put "search dog" notifiers on the dogs because of the fear that marijuana growers in the mountains will think they're drug dogs and shoot them. I'm not sure whether or not that's actually happened, but it's something that's debated occasionally. There's a surprising amount of pot grown back there, though a lot is just tended by nonviolent hippies--but you never know.

Personally, with regards to my own safety, I'm more concerned about falls or other injuries in the wilderness. On my last search I slipped and twisted my ankle quite painfully, and we were in a remote area where it would have been extremely difficult to rescue me from if I couldn't walk out. As I hiked out on my sore ankle, I couldn't help but think about how nasty it would be if I'd broken it or seriously sprained it. And on another search recently, an experienced searcher had to be hospitalized after a fall which apparently was totally unexpected (as in, he wasn't doing anything reckless or ill-advised).
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:55 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I figured I wouldn't be able to carry, but it never hurts to ask. I guess growing up as a cops daughter and hearing the stories made me extra untrusting of people. I always carry a pocket knife on me, you never know when you will need one. And you can use them to test the hardness of mineral in the field as long as you know what the blade is made of, but it wouldn't do you any good against anyone or anything attacking you.

Thanks for the extra info Rowdy, I never even thought about coming across a marajuana field. I think I would be high-tailing it out of there too if I were on a hike. Thankfully I never came across any during my trip to NM over the summer. I spent 5 days hiking in and around Copper Hill. All I came across was a rattlesnake that I name Jose. I took his picture and went over the downed tree instead of around it.
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Old 12-13-2012, 11:19 PM   #14 (permalink)
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It happened to a team in the Western Carolinas - they had blue BDU uniforms with patches etc and got shot at by some locals guarding their pot ( but then I have been shot at for pulling up a canoe on someone's land as well ) and they switched to more random normal hunting type clothes..

We have had a class on clandestine meth labs and booby traps to look for in the woods. Definitely the people are the most dangerous part of the woods. It is definitely scary stuff. The typical stuff we get for cadaver searches is dogs on chains, and once we had to watch out for syringes on the ground. But we just dont do much in the way of cadaver searches without being flanked by a police officer.
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Old 12-14-2012, 12:05 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I didn't mean to downplay the danger of crazies in the woods, just to be clear. I just assume most people into SAR are also into hiking and other wilderness activities (which I guess isn't necessarily true) and I don't think it's necessarily more dangerous with SAR, unless you never venture off the beaten path in your other activities. Of course upon further reflection, I used to live in an area with almost no trails so we didn't have much choice except to wander off the beaten path unless we wanted to hike the same 4 official trails every time, so maybe I am more used to those kind of dangers than people who live in areas that actually have a parks budget.

I often carry a gun when I'm in the wilderness on non-SAR outings, so I don't blame you for asking OP. Personally I feel a bit safer with the current state of affairs than I would if a bunch of people with who knows how much (if any) firearms training were out in the field with them, though. I'm all for the second amendment, but a lot of gun owners scare me, usually because they don't know how much they don't know!

I like that you like rattlesnakes. I have a healthy respect for them but I love them. Cool creatures and they help control the real dangers here in the southwest--rodents that might carry the plague or hanta virus! I'd rather get bit by a rattler than get either of those bugs. My team does rattlesnake training with the dogs a couple of times a year to teach them to leave the snakes alone, because that's the only real thing to worry about--a bite almost certainly won't kill a healthy adult human unless you do something dumb to make it worse, but it could easily kill a dog before you can get it to the vet. Human bites are also usually very easy to avoid, just watch where you're sticking your appendages and if you do startle one, back away slowly.

When I lived in southern NM, sometimes in late summer afternoons I'd go out on horseback and the snakes would be out in the arroyos sunning themselves. I couldn't even count the number I'd see on an hour or so hack. My dogs would run right over the top of them and they'd be so lethargic from the heat they didn't even react! Gave me a small heart attack each time though. But then on the few occasions we encountered more active ones, thankfully my dogs had a natural sense to stay away.
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Old 12-14-2012, 02:38 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Cotton mouths are the main venomous snakes where I am, but we have a lot of non-venomous varieties too. I made a neighbor mad one day when I wouldn't let him in the backyard to kill a grass snake he had seen slither under my fence. LOL I thanked him for the offer, but since it wouldn't hurt us I would rather leave it. They keep the mice populations down, which keeps them out of the house. He and his buddy stormed off back to his house. They were trying to be so manly and chivalrous and ended up being shot down. I felt bad, but I see no reason in killing a good snake that isn't bothering anyone.
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:50 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Hats off to those of you who have to deal with wildlife. I live in cougar area, but while they are a problem with sheep and calves, I've never heard of one attacking a dog, even less a human. Ngenechen also blessed us with no venomous critters of any kind.
As an aside, here in CA cougars definetly do attack people sometimes!
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