A confrontation between a tiger and a human is so one-sided that the best way to escape with your life is by avoiding fighting it altogether. This piece of wisdom comes from numerous personal experiences of locals living in tiger country in India, who occasionally meet tigers while travelling on foot.
Prevention, however, is better than cure, and the general advice is you should stay away from tiger country.
However, if you do encounter a Tiger while out hiking, here are a few tips that will help you survive:
- Do not run away. Like all predators, tigers like chasing fleeing animals. Locals who glimpse tigers lying in tall grass, fight their instinct to flee. They slowly and quietly edge away backwards from the tiger and live to tell the tale.
- Do not approach tigers. Tigers, especially those held captive, will be frightened by confinement and will be ready to strike out.
- Get high up. Climb a tree if you have time to do so. Tigers do climb trees but are not very good climbers and will usually not pursue you up a tree. It’s also a lot easier to keep a tiger at bay, up a tree, with a branch, stick or pepper spray than it is on the ground.
- Stand tall. Tigers make no distinctions between crouching humans, boar or a deer. They’re all prey. This is why so many villagers gathering wood in forests are attacked, as in the example of the Khambada forest region of India where dozens of people have been killed by tiger attacks over the years, while collecting wood. By standing up you are making clear that you are human and not natural tiger prey.
- Do not threaten a tiger. There are a number of reports citing residents who upon finding a tiger in their backyard tryed to hit it with a stick. Tigers will defend themselves against attacks and very few tigers will walk away when attacked with sticks.
- Do not urinate in tiger country. Tigers mark territory by urinating and if you pee in the forest, the tiger will see you as a territorial threat.
- Stay clear of dead animals. If you come across a dead animal, especially one covered in grass or leaves, leave it. Tigers are fiercely protective of their kills and it might have been hidden there by a tiger intending to eat it later. If you come across a dead animal, slowly move backwards in the direction you came from.
- Stay away from maimed or aged tigers. They are more likely to look for easy prey, and generally humans, even the quickest Olympic athletes, are defenceless, cumbersome, slow-moving and easily caught. However, old tigers come into contact with humans more often than healthy tigers as they seek out the easiest of prey, confined or tethered domesticated livestock.
Ready to Pounce: If the tiger is sizing you up as prey or thinks you’re a threat
If the Tiger is ready to attack you, it will growl or might take a stalking position, where it will crouch and roll its ears back, ready for launch. It will also freeze as it focuses in on its prey. If the tiger is preparing for an attack, then you need to back away slowly. If you have pepper spray, slowly take it out and undo the safety catch. Do not show your back to tiger, tigers prefer to attack prey from the rear.
Make yourself as big as possible, scream loudly and aggressively, and make a mad, angry face. Tigers are used to docile, unwitting and silent prey. If it pounces use pepper spray, if you have it, directing it towards the eyes and nose of the tiger, continue to deliver as much pepper spray into the tiger as you can. Then hope and pray. If you don’t have pepper spray, and think you can reach a tree and climb it, do it.
Tigers don’t Play Fair – Stealth Predator Warning
However, it is worth noting that tigers are stealth predators and have soft toe pads which help them move silently through grass and foliage. They’re also camouflaged and difficult to see. Almost always they attack from behind, sneaking up on their victims who have no knowledge of their presence until it’s too late.
Tigers don’t play fair. So the advice given here is more useful if you’re facing a visible tiger threat.
Pepper Spray when facing a visible tiger threat
When travelling in tiger country take pepper spray with you and learn how to use it before you start your journey. Keep it in an easily accessible pocket or bag.
Pepper spray is effective against large predatory animals, but in some cases like sudden sneak attacks, delivery a problem and it’s more useful weapon when facing a visible tiger threat.
In the USA, there a few reports of zookeepers being rescued from tigers by colleagues using pepper spray and the evidence is that pepper spray is a severe irritant to tigers.