Despite what they say, Canada can be pretty dangerous. In fact, it might even be it’s middle name. Sure we might not have the most poisonous creatures on our continent, nor any ongoing wars. But there are a few things you should know. So before you set out to see the ‘True North Strong and Free’, be sure to strap on your thinking cap, and remember the dangers in Canada.
1) Become Bear Dinner
Canada is home to Black Bears, Brown Bears, Grizzly Bears, and Polar Bears. If you’re in bear country, keep your wits about. Attacks are not all that uncommon. If you make it into the Rockies you’re bound to hear all the recent bear news. Unfortunately tourists tend to try to feed them. Which is possibly one of the worst things you could do. For your own safety, and for the bears. The saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear” – If you feed them once they’re not going to shy away from humans anymore. Which means the Park Ranger will usually have to put them down. Especially if the bear decides to put you down. (that means he eats you)
If you do have an encounter with any bear, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of survival:
- No sudden movements – if you turn and run, they will chase, and they will always outrun you, they can run as fast as a horse, even uphill.
- Stay calm – Stand your ground, talk to the bear, don’t scream or shout. Bears sometimes try and call your bluff, and will charge then turn or stop right away. It’s not going to be easy, but stand your ground.
- If you have bear mace, have it ready.
- Back away slowly – Keep your backpack on, it can act as protection if the bear attacks.
- If the bear lets you go, leave the area. It’s their turf. If, however, it doesn’t, assume foetal position.
- If being eaten by a bear isn’t the way you want to go, do some reading up. Parks Canada has a big article worth reading, which goes over everything. Read it here.
2) Get West Nile Virus
Though not nearly as gruesome of a death as being attacked by a bear, West Nile isn’t your average flu. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and can cause fatal inflammation of the brain and the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms also include fever, headaches and body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph glands. If left untreated West Nile Virus can lead to a stiff neck, disorientation, comas, tremors, paralysis, and occasionally death. (Westside!) There is currently no vaccine against West Nile, so the safest thing you could do is keep Insect Repellent on while you’re doing anything outdoors. In 2007 there were 2, 215 human cases of West Nile Virus.
3) Death by Spider Bite
Canada’s spiders are primarily non-venomous. But there are a few species that can lead to you being 6 feet under if not treated soon.
The Black Widow Spider – A small black spider with a small red hourglass shape on it back. It’s normally found in Western Canada, and is worth keeping an eye out for. They’re usually found in or near woodpiles, garages, and around swimming pools. The majority of bites happen in suburban and rural areas. You’re most likely to run into them between April and October. Symptoms include sharp pain that turns into swelling and redness around the bite. Small fang marks like red dots. Occasionally severe symptoms appear in as little as 30 minutes, which include muscle cramps, spasms, chills, fever, nausea, or vomiting. If you do get bit, stay calm, panicking will increase the blood flow and spread the venom, and seek medical assistance immediately.
The Brown Recluse Spider – Normally only 6 – 20 mm large, it’s brown and occasionally deep yellow. It usually has distinctive markings on its back, look for a Violin like marking pointing to it’s back. It’s primarily found in south-east Ontario and southern Quebec. The spider usually only bites if it’s pressed against the skin, such as when caught in clothes, bedding, bathing suits, and towels. Symptoms for a Brown Recluse Spider sting include nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, rashes, and fever. If you’re unfortunate enough to get bit by one of these guys, get to a hospital or medical center for attention.
4) Poisoned by Rattlesnakes
Believe it or not but Canada has Rattlesnakes. They are primarily found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Canada has four different types of rattlesnakes, all of which can pose a threat to you if provoked or stepped on. The chances of you finding one are pretty slim to nil, as they are already a threatened species. All it takes is one bite. Then you’re infected with Canadian venom. Don’t confuse this with regular venom. This stuff is potent. Not only can it cause irritation, it has even been known to cause paralysis, and in rare occasions, death. So tread lightly fellow traveller. You’re not in Kansas anymore.
5. Ended by Elk
Elk are like caribou’s bigger, badder cousins with a severe temper. People have a habit of assuming they’re timid and cute, when in fact they’re big stomping ferocious creatures. Similar to a raging mustang, or perhaps the yeti. All of which should be equally respected.
The main thing worth mentioning is to keep a safe distance. I know how easy it is to get caught up in all that crazy excitement. “Three feet closer and I’ll have the perfect picture”.” Well listen here Mr. Powershot, what good is a picture of the animal that killed you! Not very. So watch out during rutting season, when males have a tendency to charge. And watch out for pregnant females, or when they’re with offspring. If you thought your sister-in-law was bitchy grouchy during pregnancy, you should see elk.
6. Murder by Moose
Believe it or not, there are more moose attacks in Canada than by their more ferocious counter-parts, the bears. How can this be, you may ask? Well, first off, they look slow, friendly, and kind of stupid. However, they should never, ever be underestimated. Always respect the moose, if not for its size, at least for its antlers. Those things are big, perfect for murdering unsuspecting tourists.
Moose are territorial animals, and will charge you if provoked. Which means trying to feed them, or touch one, is probably not the smartest thing you can do. Moose have been the cause of death in many car accidents. Especially at night, when the lights will sometimes make moose charge towards the car. They weigh a lot. (380–720 kg (850–1580 pounds)) Any collision with one in or out of your car, could very well be your last.
7. Become Cougar Prey
Cougar attacks are rare, but when they happen, it’s always bad. The cougar is a wild feline with razor sharp claws, and jaws to match. The only good thing about being turned into cat food, is that with weapons that mean, it’s got to be a quick death. Those who have had close encounters with this cold feline tend to be camping deep in the woods or have just gone off trail during a brisk jog. I really have no information regarding how to survive an attack, so rather than giving you false hope that you could survive one, I’m just going to suggest you don’t get into a cat fight with one. The odds are stacked up against you here.
8. Ski into a tree
Imagine this, you’re snowboarding, perhaps skiing through the Rocky mountains, checking out Banff, maybe Whistler, weaving in and out of trees, enjoying the awesome powder, when all of the sudden you catch an edge. You whip face first into a tree. Then you’re dead.
Countless deaths occur every winter from a simple fall in the wrong direction. The only tip I can give is to wear a helmet. Now you may not think they’re cool, it’s your choice, kill your style, or kill yourself. If however you choose to keep your cool by not wearing a helmet, and you do take a nasty bump to the head. Do yourself a favour and get checked out. Head trauma isn’t like a sprained wrist, you shouldn’t just sleep it off. Because if you do, there’s a chance you’ll never wake up.
9. Buried by Avalanche
It’s become a yearly occurrence in Canada. Skiers & snowboarders getting caught in an Avalanche. It’s almost to be expected now, which is unfortunate, because it can be prevented. If you don’t have experience in backcountry riding, avoid it. I know first hand how seducing 4-5 feet of powder can be, and have had my very own close call back when I was younger. The risks really outweigh the benefits here. Unless you’ve taken your avalanche safety course, and are trained to detect subtle differences in snow type, stay on trail. Mountain staff aren’t liable at all and some may not even consider looking for you out of bounds, especially if you purposely blatantly ignored signs indicating that you are out of bounds. Breathing beneath a few meters of snow is one of those things you really can’t prepare yourself for. If you’re looking for thrill, head to the terrain park. Or better yet, the bar.
10. Freeze! To death!
Another common occurrence us Canucks have grown used to hearing about is people getting caught in a Blizzard or White-out. Rather than risking getting their car stuck they pull over. (Which actually is a great idea) – Unfortunately somewhere along the lines their decision making skills do a complete 180, and rather than hanging out until the storm passes, they decide to walk for help. Now there are 3 reasons this is a bad idea;
1) It’s Cold – Blizzards in Canada are usually around –30 degrees Celsius, and can get as cold as –50 degrees with wind chill. Skin freezes in minutes at this temperature. So rather than turning into the next ‘Encino Man’, stay in the car, keep warm. Someone will find you!
2) No direction – During a blizzard you’re lucky if you can see 5 feet ahead of you. Disorientation kicks in at this point. Next thing you know you’re heading in the wrong direction, can’t find your way back to the car, and with those crazy cold temperatures, you die.
3) Why leave a good shelter? – Your car can keep you alive for a few days at least, you’ve got all the water you can ask for, a shelter from wind. If you’re lucky enough to be with someone during a whiteout, what better way to kill some time than by cozying up to one another. (Warning: sharing body warmth can get sexy, I encourage you to not act upon these feelings, as sweating is the worst thing you can do in sub-zero temperatures)
If you’re going to be stuck in your car for an extended period and need the engine running, be sure to leave the window open a crack. Countless people die every year from Carbon Monoxide poisoning from their vehicles exhaust. Keep a bit of air circulation going and you’ll be fine. Remember, storms pass, try your best to keep a positive outlook on the situation. Perhaps take a couple pictures, document the situation. It could make for a good story…if you survive.