‘I saw a big set of white teeth coming towards me’: the people who survived terrifying wild animal attacks | Wildlife


Although, mercifully, nonetheless uncommon, there are indicators that wild animal attacks on people are growing. Research from the scientific journal Nature discovered that, as our city areas additional develop into the territories of carnivorous animals, attacks on pets, livestock and generally people have been on the rise. In Kashmir, native wildlife departments have been reporting a marked improve in attacks, with nearly 200 people killed and greater than 2,000 others wounded in man-animal battle in the area since 2011.

From a British citizen attacked by otters in Singapore, to monkey attacks in Thailand, squirrel attacks in New York, and a man who fought off a crocodile with a pocket knife in Queensland, these encounters seize our imaginations. But how does it really feel to outlive such an ordeal – and the way does it have an effect on your life?

A mountain lion: ‘People have no clue how powerful these animals are.’ Photograph: Max Allen/Alamy

‘I tried to punch the mountain lion in the face’ – Anne Hjelle, 48, Orange County, California

One day in January 2004, I texted my biking buddy Debi to see if she wished to fulfill for a experience. I dwell in California and wished to do a 45-minute loop at Whiting Ranch, which was solely a 10-minute drive from my home. I left my groceries on the counter at house.

It was about 3.45pm after we began. I used to be coming round a blind nook and saw a man in the center of the path with one other bike propped up in opposition to the bushes. I slowed down and requested if the whole lot was OK. He mentioned he had discovered an deserted bike and was in search of the proprietor.

Debi and I continued, making an attempt to select up velocity. A minute later, I got here to a twisty part, bordered by thick brush and a slope all the way down to a ravine. In my peripheral imaginative and prescient I all of the sudden saw this flash of reddish-brown fur. I knew it was an animal, however my first assumption was that it was a deer, since they might generally certain throughout the path. In the subsequent second, the animal leapt and grabbed me.

There’s just one animal that will try that; I knew it was a mountain lion. It latched on to my shoulders and tried to chunk down on the again of my neck. It felt like getting hit by a truck. I used to be slammed to the floor and it knocked the wind out of me; I couldn’t consider this was occurring.

Anne Hjelle.
Anne Hjelle. Photograph: Courtesy of Anne Hjelle

The cat began to tug me down into the ravine. It had me by the again of the neck and I attempted to punch its face however it didn’t have any impact. It dragged me a number of ft after which readjusted its grip to over my left ear after which the left facet of my face. I realised that it was working its method round to the entrance of my neck. At this level, I used to be making an attempt to scream for Debi and I saw her – she was screaming, too, and in a tug of warfare with the cat over me. It had me by the head and she or he grabbed me by my calf to attempt to maintain it from pulling me down into the ravine.

Meanwhile, it closed its grip on the left facet of my face and pulled my cheek away. It was like a scorching knife by butter. I began to say goodbye to Debi because it tried to seize the entrance of my throat. Within a matter of seconds, issues started to go black. I used to be satisfied this was the finish of my life. I simply felt peace.

But Debi’s screams had introduced different riders over to us. One went again to name the emergency companies and two others began throwing rocks at the cat. They hit it thrice – and when one landed on its head, it let go of me.

Shortly after that, I got here to. I bear in mind being very shocked that I had woken up – and that the cat was gone. I used to be choking alone blood and it felt as if I used to be drowning. The left facet of my face felt like somebody had stapled a steak to it. My subsequent concern was whether or not I may see out of my left eye. When I realised I may, that was the first second I believed I used to be going to be OK.

It took 19 minutes from the 911 name till the paramedics arrived. When the helicopter was flying overhead, the pilot saw the cat crouched down, ready for an additional probability. The sheriff’s deputies later discovered a physique that was recognized as Mark Reynolds. He was killed earlier by the cat – the deserted bike was his.

Anne Hjelle having facial therapy to reduce scar tissue and swelling in 2005.
Anne Hjelle having facial remedy to cut back scar tissue and swelling in 2005. Photograph: Sipa US/Alamy

Without Debi stepping in, I might not be right here. Mark was a high-level athlete and he didn’t survive as a result of he was by himself. People don’t have any clue how highly effective these animals are – it was like being mobbed by 10 people.

That evening, I went into surgical procedure for six-and-a-half hours. My trauma surgeon later mentioned that my accidents have been the worst he had ever seen. But I used to be fortunate – out of the 20 deep puncture wounds I sustained, none hit my trachea, oesophagus, voice field or carotid artery. My medical doctors mentioned it was a miracle.

I acquired again on a bike solely 4 months later. I acquired buddies collectively and went to experience that very same path. Either I let the worry management me or I take management; I wished to test it off the record and transfer on. I’ve had zero points with nightmares or PTSD since the assault. I’m simply so grateful to be alive.

I don’t let this assault outline me. I now have a daughter, who is eight, and I attempt to be sturdy and set an instance for her.

A great white shark
An incredible white shark: ‘I started to realise that maybe the sharks weren’t going to assault us each time we went in the water. Photograph: Brad Leue/Alamy

‘I grabbed the shark in a bear hug to stop it biting me’ – Rodney Fox, 81, Adelaide

At 22, I used to be the winner of the South Australian spearfishing championships, holding your breath and spearing a selection of fish beneath a time restrict. I used to be making an attempt to regain my title in 1963, off Aldinga seaside. After three or 4 hours, I wanted to catch some particular species, so I swam a great distance offshore, the place none of the different opponents had been, and dived to the backside. I used to be nearly to tug the set off on a actually prized fish when a enormous crash hit me in the facet. It knocked the gun out of my palms and the masks off my face and I used to be dragged by the water sooner than I’d ever swam earlier than.

Rodney Fox showing the scars from his shark attack.
Rodney Fox displaying the scars from his shark assault. Photograph: Jeff Rotman/Alamy

I initially thought I’d been hit by a submarine, however then I realised it needed to be a large shark – a nice white. Fortunately, I had been speaking to a man who had been bitten on the leg a 12 months earlier, and we had labored out that the most susceptible spot on the shark was its eyes. So I gouged round its head making an attempt to get the shark to let go of me. And it did.

I fell out of its mouth and I instinctively thrusted away with my hand, however that went into its mouth and tore on its teeth. I then grabbed the shark in a bear hug round the stomach as a result of I knew it wouldn’t have the ability to chunk me there.

I used to be 30 or 40ft underwater and I realised I used to be going to drown if I didn’t transfer. So I let go and kicked as much as the floor, then I regarded down by the blood pink water and saw this big set of white teeth coming again towards me. I kicked as laborious as I may at the shark however I solely simply touched it. Instead, it turned and swallowed the float that I had tied my fish to. That float was linked to my lead belt by a rope and that caught on the shark’s teeth. It dragged me underwater once more.

I knew I needed to discover the fast launch for the belt, however my palms have been all reduce up. I used to be inside cut up seconds of drowning when the shark pulled, the line snapped and I managed to thrash to the floor. Miraculously, a boat was on its method over to have a have a look at all this pink water and the people on board pulled me in.

The worry of dying overrides ache. It was solely after I was mendacity down on the boat that the waves of ache arrived. I knew I had finished my finest – now it was as much as my rescuers to attempt to save me.

In these days, there was no microsurgery, in order that they put 29 stitches in my lung to shut up the pleural sac, and each rib on my left facet was damaged. I had 462 stitches in my chest in whole, since all of my organs have been uncovered and my torso was ripped open. Doctors mentioned it was the worst shark assault that they had seen.

Just seven months after the assault, I used to be at Adelaide zoo a lion’s cage. I had this concept that I may construct a cage underwater and reverse the roles. I might have a look at these sharks and attempt to perceive them, after which see if I wished to return to diving. In 1964, I managed to organise an expedition with two different shark-attack survivors. The sharks have been extra considering the bait than us, and I began to grasp that possibly the sharks weren’t going to assault us each time we went in the water.

Lots of people would say the finest sharks are lifeless sharks, however I knew there was already tons of blood in the water from the speared fish, so I don’t blame the shark for coming and biting one thing. Over the years, it’s been a enormous battle making an attempt to get people to know sharks higher. We should be taught to not kill them from worry.

A 12 months and a half after the assault, I entered the Australian spearfishing championships and got here first in a number of occasions. I’m 81 now and it hasn’t given me any actual issues, besides that I’ve a tight feeling in the left facet of my chest to remind me how fortunate I used to be. I’ve been operating expeditions for people to look at sharks of their habitats ever since.

A river otter.
‘I had never thought they would attack anyone’ … a river otter. Photograph: Jouko van der Kruijssen/Getty Images

‘The otter kept torpedoing underwater to bite my legs ’ – Leah Hiller, 42, Minnesota

My dad owns a cabin in a distant space on Island Lake, Minnesota, the place we’d typically spend holidays. In July 2012, after I was 31, I used to be staying there whereas coaching for the USA Triathlon National Championships. My husband and two kids, who have been 4 and two at the time, have been with me. One morning, I went for my regular mile-long swim. I’d finished it 100 instances earlier than and my dad was going to take my youngsters out to comply with me on his pontoon boat.

Everything was going nice till my youngsters mentioned they wished to be taken again to eat some snacks. I informed my dad it was advantageous for him to go, since there was no boat site visitors.

In Island Lake, the water is the color of darkish rum, so when your hand passes into it, you may’t see previous your elbow. You don’t know what’s beneath. I circled the island in the lake and was on my method again to shore after I was bitten on the heel. It was a actually sharp ache. At first, I believed it was a muskie, that are these enormous fish that populate the lake, however they’re not recognized to be violent. Then I used to be attacked on the calf. Something grabbed my leg and simply began biting.

I used to be in actual ache and my thoughts was in shock. About 20ft away, a head popped out to take a look at me and I realised it was an otter.

Leah Hiller.
Leah Hiller. Photograph: Courtesy of Leah Hiller

I’m an animal lover and had by no means thought otters would assault anybody. Over the subsequent 10 minutes, I used to be yelling and calling for assist. The otter stored torpedoing underwater to chunk my legs after which it could come up, observe the place I used to be, and assault once more. I knew I couldn’t outswim it, so I simply needed to brace for the bites and attempt to defend my neck as a result of, if it hit me there, I might have drowned.

These sharp, searing bites have been coming from each angle and it bit me 25 instances. Some of them have been two inches deep and one pierced my ankle bone, whereas one other went by my calf muscle.

But I’m no stranger to adversity. When I used to be 18 I survived a automotive crash the place I used to be despatched flying by the windscreen. I spent six months in the hospital and needed to have a number of surgical procedures. When I used to be 23, I used to be recognized with thyroid most cancers and needed to have my lymph nodes eliminated. I consider these experiences helped me – I knew I needed to struggle.

I stored on screaming and ultimately my dad heard me. He was so panicked he flooded the motor of the pontoon boat making an attempt to start out it. He needed to get to his different boat, which fortunately did begin, and he made it to me and pulled me out of the water.

He couldn’t depart my youngsters alone, in order that they have been in the boat, too, and my daughter was bawling at seeing her mum lined in blood. Even although I used to be in ache, I switched into mum mode and was comforting her. I knew, now I used to be out of the water, I might be advantageous.

It should have been 10 to fifteen minutes earlier than my dad acquired out to me, and with out him it may have gone on for a lot longer as a result of there have been no different boats close by. My wetsuit was a saviour – that quarter inch of neoprene took a lot of the scratches and it was shredded. The blood was streaming beneath it. We went straight to the hospital the place the medical doctors have been fearful that the otter might need rabies. Since I had 25 open wounds, I needed to get a rabies shot in every of them – it was a lot medicine that I threw up all over the place.

The very first thing I requested after I stopped vomiting was, “When can I get back in the lake?” The medical doctors thought it was loopy, however I knew that if I couldn’t get again in the water and face my worry, I might by no means need to once more. I used to be given a two-week course of antibiotics and after that I used to be informed I might be good to go. There was a triathlon occurring about two weeks later and I knew that will be my approach to get again in. I did it in a wetsuit that mentioned “otter girl” on the again.

I nonetheless swim now. I’m proud of that otter assault story as a result of it confirmed me how mentally sturdy I might be. That otter nonetheless lives, too. No one is aware of why it attacked me, however the medical doctors guessed that it should have been a mom otter defending its infants. My dad would see it swimming round for years afterwards – I simply don’t suppose anybody else swam in that spot once more.

Colin Dowler at the logging camp at Mount Doogie Dowler.
Colin Dowler at the logging camp at Mount Doogie Dowler. Photograph: Courtesy of Colin Dowler

‘The grizzly bear carried me 30ft in its mouth’ – Colin Dowler, 47, Vancouver Island

In summer time 2019, I used to be exploring potential mountaineering routes to climb Mount Doogie Dowler in British Columbia. I used to be biking down a slim logging path after I got here round a nook and noticed a grizzly bear. I had seen two or three black bears earlier than and, normally, in the event you make some noise, they transfer away. But this was the first time I had seen a grizzly – and it was looking at me.

I acquired off my bike, because it wasn’t shifting. I used to be peering out of the nook of my eye and seen it slinking towards me, till it was solely a couple of ft away. It had nearly cleared previous my bike – till it made a 180-degree flip towards me. I spun round to place the bike between us and acquired my mountaineering pole out because it moved nearer, putting it between its eyes. It pushed again a little and that appeared like a respectable stalemate till it rolled its head, bit on to the pole and tossed it away. I took off my bag and threw it to the facet – I believed it could go for the meals in there as a substitute of me. It took a sniff however then began prodding me with its paw. Each poke acquired a little extra aggressive till it lifted its paw excessive. I believed it could inflict some critical injury so I threw my bike at it.

A grizzly bear.
‘I thought it would inflict some serious damage so I threw my bike at it’ … a grizzly bear. Photograph: Reuben Krabbe/Ascent Xmedia/Getty Images

It lunged ahead and sank its teeth between my ribs and hips on my left facet and shortly I used to be in the bear’s mouth because it carried me 30 or 40ft towards a bush. I used to be in crushing ache. It put me down and I attempted to gouge at its eyes however I couldn’t attain. I used to be thrashing whereas it pinned me and began biting and tearing at my thigh. It was so painful it felt like my hip was going to dislocate. It excavated into my thigh up to now I may hear its teeth grinding in opposition to my femur like a canine chewing a bone.

I began saying goodbye to my spouse and children in my head and felt responsible that I’d even taken this journey in the first place. Then I realised I had a pocket knife. I had to make use of each palms whereas I used to be nonetheless pinned down however I finally managed to get it out. The blade was beneath three inches lengthy however I gave the bear a stab in its neck with all the vitality I had. When I pulled the knife out, it lifted its head up and a big gush of blood splashed on to my waist. It acquired off me and walked to my bike, sniffed at it for a whereas after which stood again at the bush the place it had stepped out from.

I knew I needed to transfer quick in any other case I’d bleed to demise. While the bear was nonetheless watching, I reduce the sleeve off my shirt and made a tourniquet for my left leg. I regarded over once more and the bear had gone.