Photo by SaguaroNPS, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under CC 2.0.
Firearms can often save lives in situations when people find themselves faced with aggressive wild animals such as bears, mountain lions and bobcats.
Anti-gun politicians from metropolitan areas may not be conscious of such dangers faced by law-abiding gun owners in rural regions. Proposed gun-control laws could potentially impact citizens’ abilities to protect people and domestic animals from creatures of greater strength in dangerous encounters.
Sometimes wild animals aggressively encroach on properties. In many cases, these are natural predators hunting for food; in some cases, the animals show no fear of humans and cannot be driven away. A person caught in such a situation would be at a major disadvantage without a firearm, and possibly rendered defenseless against a stronger creature raiding property or attacking pets and livestock.
Bears, for example, are extremely strong creatures that occasionally intrude into human areas and cause dangerous situations. In October, a Tennessee homeowner shot and killed a bear that attempted to attack his dog. The homeowner fired a warning shot to frighten the bear away. However, the bear, instead of fleeing, became more aggressive. Authorities ruled the shooting was justified since the bear showed no fear of humans and was threatening the man’s property.
In another recent example, a man in Alaska shot a polar bear this month that tried to attack him outside his cabin. The polar bear had traveled far from its natural habitat and charged the man when he stepped outside one morning to refuel his generator. Fortunately, the man was alerted by his dog.
“My dog barked, and the bear was on my back, right behind me. And I jumped back inside, grabbed my rifle,” the man said. “By time I got turned around, it was heading for the door, the open door. Wanted to come in.”
He shot the polar bear at pointblank range as it tried to chase him through the open doorway.
Big cats are also aggressive creatures that sometimes attack domestic animals and humans, creating an immediate need for self-defense. A Utah homeowner was compelled to fatally shoot a bobcat that invaded his backyard to protect his pets and those of his neighbors. The homeowner attempted to frighten the bobcat away after he discovered it chasing one of his pets in his backyard. However, the bobcat was undeterred and showed no fear of humans. Neighbors had attempted to scare the bobcat away by banging pots and pans, but noted that it “seemed to be focused on the neighbor’s animals in the backyard.” Authorities did not cite the homeowner for shooting the bobcat.
A similar situation occurred in Montana, where a female homeowner was compelled to shoot an aggressive mountain lion that returned to her property after killing her livestock. A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden told the homeowner to shoot the lion if it returned to her property after killing her goat. The woman shot the lion through an open window when it approached close to her house. According to the warden, it is acceptable for citizens to use deadly force to defend themselves, their property, pets, livestock and other people from predators. “People can’t go out hunting lions, and they shouldn’t shoot one that is just moving through the area, but if it’s creeping around your house looking for something to eat, that’s a no-no. That lion needs to go,” according to the warden.
Imagine what could have happened differently if people confronted with these harrowing situations had not been allowed to own or carry a firearm. An unarmed person in an unequal struggle against a wild animal faces greater risks.
A Colorado man who narrowly survived a mountain lion attack with only a pocketknife and rocks to defend himself said afterwards he wished he would have brought his firearm with him on that fateful occasion. “I think I would have been able to give it a warning shot and hopefully it would have ran off. That’s what I kind of take from all of this. When I go into the field now, I need to make sure I have my sidearm,” the man said.
He had decided not to bring his firearm with him for a brief trip into the woods and was accosted by a mountain lion while walking back to his vehicle. Hearing rustling behind him, he discovered the predator stalking him from behind trees. The man backed away—following safety precautions for encounters with mountain lions—but the lion charged and clawed his leg after he tripped and fell. He fought the mountain lion off using his pocketknife and some rocks he found. In spite of this, the mountain lion continued to pursue him. Authorities tracked and killed the mountain lion since the creature had attacked a human. They observed that the mountain lion exhibited unusually aggressive behavior when they located it. The man stated that the dangerous encounter was made more difficult by the fact that he did not have a firearm with him for self-defense.
Politicians calling for gun control fail to consider the needs of American citizens in rural areas of the country, who may need to use firearms to defend themselves against wild animals when other options fail.