OutsideOnline.com recently posted a story about the likely ways you can die in an American National Park. Keep in mind the type of people and activities that are usually done there. I highly suggest reading the article in the link above and following up with any safety measures that you are not fully comfortable with. The paragraphs that follow do not provide the life saving info but instead focus on dealing with the common fears. Please follow up with supplemental backcountry safety tips. Knowledge is power, the power to stay safe.
Below is a copy of the chart provided in the article. It is American National Park Fatalities from 2007 to 2013.
You can see that the most likely way to get a serious, fatal, injury in a park is drowning. This number is generated mostly by young children, then intoxicated young adults, and then seniors. For the most part, our Canadian lakes are glacier feed and are a chilly 4C. Most visitors to our parks do not come for the water, so I will ignore the statistic as the average hiker will not be subject to water risks. The second most likely way to die is listed a vehicle accident. Alberta/BC roads can suck and it should be common sense that a mountain road can have unfavorable driving conditions at any time of year.
I would like to point out 2 things to show that you are in control of your own safety:
1. If you make it to the park safe, and you are not playing in/around water, you are most likely to die from tripping and hitting your head, than by falling while scrambling or climbing. Stairs play a big role here. Keep in mind senior visitors. It seems safe to say that the higher the risk in an activity, the more cautious and able the person. Last year a tourist fell off Machu Picchu because he was taking a selfie on part of the trail with no real barricade. Falls that lead to death are often due to carelessness not extreme conditions.
2. Wildlife and bears. Bears are the most asked about risk, to me personally anyways. However, I have seen Lynx, Bobcat, and Cougar in 2017. A Bobcat stole my boots and chewed them in Revelstoke. A cougar pushed my hammock around around Elbow-Sheep, more than once, and put a hole in my hammock’s tarp while doing so. Am I afraid of them? I am not sure. They tend to follow me out of their hunting grounds and show themselves to me occasionally.
I follow simple behaviors to make myself less of a target. Bears are waking up soon and you need to know what is going on in a bear’s head in the spring (baby time), summer (berry season), and fall (fattening time). Bears will behave differently during each season. It is your responsibility to make sure you don’t come off as a threat. 4 deaths from bears and 2 from other on this chart. You seem to be more likely to be killed by a moose with a calf in the spring, or a rutting elk in the fall, than a cat. That being said, a few years ago a lady left her friend on the trail to go to the bathroom in the Jewel Pass area. She was attacked by a cougar and killed unfortunately. Attacks like this can happen, but they are often preventable or there are ways to reduce your risk.
Here is a quote from the article about bears:
“Bears don’t attack without provocation. And, as you an see from the extreme rarity of bear-related fatalities, they don’t represent much of an actual threat. Practicing basic safety with your food and smells when traveling through bear country, making noise as you travel to avoid surprising one, and arming yourself with bear spray (more effective than a gun) all combine to make not getting eaten by a bear about as foolproof as it gets. So long as you’re not a complete idiot, you don’t really need to worry about bears outdoors. Especially if you have a good dog.”
-and bears attack more often(and kill) than any other wild animal.
I hope this opens your eyes. It is not about taking risks, it is about being prepared. If you take one thing from this article it should be:
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY IN THE BACKCOUNTRY.
Full article below: