A true survival situation will simultaneously test your skills, knowledge, and mental fortitude. And no matter how prepared you may be to survive an SHTF situation, it is always wise to learn from your surroundings to help better leverage the resources available in any environment.
Observing wildlife is often a beneficial way to do so. In most cases, the generations of animals living in the surrounding habitat will have figured out the best ways to collect and utilize the resources available, and by observing them, you can reap similar rewards.
In this article, we’ll examine five different lessons that wildlife may provide.
1. Traveling Routes
Travel routes are not always at a premium – if you should find yourself living in a park or on hunting lands, you’ll likely have easy access to roads and trails you can use. But if you end up having to survive in a true wilderness area, you may find it difficult to make the trek from your campsite to a water source, for example.
However, wild animals tend to create trails over time, which you can use to get around more easily in densely vegetated areas. But because these game trails are not always easy to spot, you may need to find them by looking for tracks left by deer, pigs, or coyotes. These large animals may also have trouble penetrating dense vegetation, so by following their tracks, you may find that they’ll lead to a game trail.
2. The Presence of Water
Water is obviously an important resource, but it isn’t always easy to find. You can use “brute force” strategies for finding or acquiring water, such as walking downhill for long distances (usually, you can reach water if you simply walk downhill long enough) or digging a well in a low-lying area.
But you can also try to leverage the clues local animals provide to find water. Three of the best ways to do so include:
- Listen for chorusing frogs. The majority of frogs and toads in North America breed near open water and the calls of some species can be heard up to one mile away. Just realize that some frogs are capable of breeding in very shallow water, so this may only provide access to a small ditch or large puddle. Nevertheless, this may be the difference between life and death if you can’t otherwise locate water.
- Watch for water-dwelling birds flying overhead. Ducks, geese, herons, and other waterfowl often fly from one wetland, pond, or river to the next in search of food and other resources. And while you don’t want to walk miles in the same direction you saw a single duck flying, repeated waterfowl sightings that all head in the same direction are often worth pursuing. Also, you can learn to recognize the calls of birds who also like to live around water, such as those of redwing blackbirds.
- Follow raccoon tracks. Raccoons frequently travel between forests and wetlands or creeks, so they’ll often leave a series of tracks that you can follow to water.
Additionally, if you hear the sounds of domestic pets or farm animals, you’ll know that they must have some type of water source available. This may present additional challenges, as people are usually found in their company, but it is still worth noting.
3. Important Food Sources
A lot of the staple foods that support wildlife populations can also help nourish you when living off the land. And through careful observation, you may be able to benefit from these same food sources.
For example, pigs and deer often feed heavily on acorns late in the year. Acorns can also serve as a good food source for humans, so pay attention to any tracks you find in the region, as well as the movements of any deer or pigs you can see.
It’s also worth examining the scat left by coyotes, foxes, and other omnivores (contrary to common perception, most wild canids include some plant matter in their diets). These animals often feed on some of the same fruits you could consume, such as blueberries, blackberries, persimmons, and more. It may take a bit of “dissection” to identify the bits of food remaining in the droppings of these animals, but the clues they provide may prove invaluable.
There are a variety of other ways you can use wildlife to clue you in on the location of potential food sources, but they require a bit more knowledge about specific species. If, for example, you spotted a red-bellied water snake crawling through a low-lying forest, you can be sure that a robust frog population is nearby. So, be sure to spend some time learning about the feeding habits of the animals in your immediate area.
4. Unseen Agents
Relatively few animals in North America represent a legitimate danger to your safety, but a few, including bears, wolves, large cats, and moose, certainly deserve respect. Additionally, you may need to consider humans a potential threat in a survival situation.
You don’t want people or wild animals sneaking up on you, but it can often be challenging to see approaching threats — especially in areas with dense vegetation. So, stay alert to the sounds of nearby birds – often, they’ll change their vocalization patterns when they spot a large animal.
Squirrels are also helpful in this regard, as they often emit a characteristic warning sound when frightened.
5. Impending Weather Changes
Because they live exposed to the elements, many wild animals learn to recognize the subtlest clues of changing weather patterns. Changing weather may require you to do a variety of things, from seeking shelter to setting up rain-collecting buckets, so be sure to learn to spot some of the signs that your local weather may be changing.
Some of the most helpful behaviors to note include:
- Watch for the local birds to seek shelter. Birds are often among the first animals to exhibit obvious behavioral changes preceding inclement weather. They’ll usually react by seeking shelter amid the dense vegetation of trees and shrubs. So, if you see large numbers of birds congregating amid the trees or flying beneath the tree canopy, rainy or stormy weather may be imminent.
- Listen and watch for atypical activity patterns. Many animals are typically active or inactive at consistent times of the day. Most birds are diurnal (active during the day), for example, while owls, opossums, and raccoons are often nocturnal (active at night). When these animals are active during times when they’re normally sleeping or sheltering, it is usually a clue that storms may be imminent.
- Once again, listen for frogs. Many frog species begin calling shortly before it rains. In fact, many species have distinct “rain calls,” which they only produce immediately before or during rainy weather. This typically won’t give you a lot of lead time, but if you act fast, you’ll often find that you have enough time to seek shelter before a downpour begins.
Of course, there are countless other lessons the animals living alongside you can provide, and every survival situation will be different. Accordingly, you’ll want to keep your mind open while observing these creatures to help maximize the potential value their activities may provide.
But no matter the specifics of the situation or the place in which you’re trying to survive, it is imperative that you watch your feathered and furry neighbors and take advantage of the lessons they’ve already learned.