Fortunately, most threats never escalate to the point of needing to unholster a self-defense firearm. Unfortunately, rational discussion and hasty retreat are of little use in most conflicts with wild animals. Following are several more accounts of those who used a gun to even the score against animals they had no chance of overpowering or outrunning.
Eighty-year-old Martha Smith says there was no time for fear when her border collie confronted a mountain lion near her home. “I could see the tail twitching, and he was snarling and spitting,” she recalls. Smith shot at the cat with her .22-caliber rifle, but missed, and ran inside to dial 911. Informed help was a long way off, Smith decided she’d have to deal with the agitated cat herself. “I shot him in the light spot under his leg where I knew his heart would be,” she explained. “You do what you have to do—you don’t have time to be afraid.” Smith has been versed in riflecraft since adolescence, when she herded sheep on the family ranch. “My sister and I were put on horseback with the lunch, the water canteen and a gun,” she recalls. (Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D., 1/9/2008)
A wolf apparently targeted a 6-year-old boy playing near a logging camp in Icy Bay, Alaska, one chilly April morning. According to camper Teresa Thompson, the animal “was aware of the other people around him, but his whole intention was trying to take off with the little boy. He had literally picked the little boy off the ground.” A camp carpenter and a dog finally came to the boy’s rescue, chasing off the animal, but not before the boy suffered multiple bite wounds that later required stitches. The crazed animal returned 10 minutes later, but this time Thompson’s husband dispatched it with a gun. Alaska Fish and Game Department officials said they were unaware of similar incidents anywhere in North America and sent off the animal’s head for rabies testing. (The Seattle Times, Seattle, Wash., 4/28/2000)
Penny Smith started after her dogs when she heard them chasing what she assumed was a rabbit near her Shrewsbury, Vt., home. When the animal turned out to be a rabies-crazed coyote, though, Smith bolted for her truck and sounded the horn for her husband. Unfortunately, Greg Smith’s single shot missed its mark. The next day, a second attack sent Penny Smith running once again, this time into the house. When Greg Smith came to her rescue this time, he was passed at the front door first by his wife and then by the coyote. “[The animal] was right on her heels,” he said. “I never even saw it until it was going by me.” Penny Smith escaped out the back of the house, but the coyote turned on Greg Smith, who put down the 30-lb. animal with six shots from his handgun. “It was so sinister. The thing was cool as a cucumber. It had no fear,” said Smith. (Valley News, West Lebanon, N.H., 6/8/2000)
Emily Pesti’s tranquil Gaithersburg, Md., backyard was quickly transformed into a horror-movie-like setting one Sunday night when a 12-ft. snake appeared out of the darkness and coiled around the family pet: a mixed terrier named Dusty. Family members fought the beast with a leash, a shovel—even a surfboard—until the snake finally relented and released the limp, breathless Dusty who was later revived and rushed to a veterinary hospital. Having been told by animal agencies after an earlier sighting of the snake that no help would be forthcoming, the family’s nightmare finally ended when a neighbor showed up with a rifle and dispatched the snake. (The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, 7/29/1999)
Jim Gentry’s 7-year-old grandson had been playing in the yard at his grandparents’ Athena, Ore., home—located in an isolated canyon setting—only an hour before the trouble began. A cougar had waited until dusk, then attacked the family’s dog. “He got pretty chewed up,” said Gentry of the pet, which lived thanks to his owner’s quick action and one shot from a .410-bore shotgun. (The Herald, Everett, Wash., 10/4/1998)
Dave Montgomery grabbed his .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle from the gun cabinet and went to investigate the ruckus outside on his Battle Mountain, Nev., farm. Rounding the side of the barn, Montgomery came face-to-face with a wolf trying to get to his pigs and chickens. The canine charged the farmer at “full bore,” but was finally halted by a volley of shots. Montgomery fired more than seven times before the animal ceased his attack. (The Daily Free Press, Elko, Nev., 2/6/1996)
In what is becoming a trend on the west coast, John Ayler was forced to shoot a cougar that charged him and a friend. Noticing that his dogs were acting oddly, Ayler, of Arlington, Wash., put his gun in his belt, and with his friend went outside to look around. When, instead of fleeing, the cougar charged directly at the two men, Ayler pulled his gun and killed the cat. (The Herald, Everett, Wash., 3/25/1994)