Mother nature is beautiful! No matter where you live across the United States there are plenty of incredible places to discover and explore.
Unfortunately, beauty does not always mean safety, and nature can have a cruel sense of humor. There are literally hundreds of ways to die in the outdoors. Below is our list of the top seven ways Mother Nature can kill you. Counting down, each one is slightly more excruciating than the last.
Number 7 - Death by Heart Attack
Yes, heart attacks kill thousands upon thousands each year. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 735,000 Americans have heart attacks each year and each year, many a few ill-prepared baby-boomers who still think they are 21 hit some steep switchbacks only to feel pain in their left arms, clutch their chests, and look towards the pearly gates.
Number 6 - Death by Ground... Falling on it
This should not be too much of a surprise. Spend enough time hiking and you are going to eat it. Sadly, some go down harder and farther than others. Unroped falls are the number one killer for hikers and backpackers each year. Most of us have done some hikes and thought while looking down, “Wow if I fall right here I am going to go splat.” A general rule of thumb: anything more than about 40 feet is likely fatal, but perhaps what is scariest is knowing you are going to die.
According to the laws of physics, you fall at y = 0.5 g t2 feet, where g is the acceleration due to gravity (32 ft/s2 on Earth) and t is the number of seconds in free fall.
Okay, so let us say you take a tumble in Yosemite, and fall to the valley floor. If you’ve been to Yosemite, you know falling 4,000 feet is not out of the question. That means you would a fall for roughly 16 seconds before dying. That’s a long time to think about your impending death.
Number 5 - Death By Drowning
Another very common way to die in the outdoors is drowning. There are clearly numerous ways to drown. You can fall through a frozen lake, get swept away in a river or, god, forbid get hit by an unexpected flash flood. Your body’s natural response to being underwater is to not breathe. However, at some point the build up of carbon dioxide in your blood combined with the lack of oxygen cause you start breathing with the fish.
Number 4 - Death by Poison
Getting poisoned in the outdoors can happen a variety of different ways. Some because people are stupid and want to be botanists so they end up eating deadly plants or mushroom and accidently off themselves. Others simply have bad luck, such as getting bitten by rattlesnake, stung to death by bees or happen to be one of unlucky few to get a deadly disease such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick.
While it is unlikely a snake bite is going to kill you, there are poisonous snakes pretty much everywhere in the Lower 48. Various species of rattlesnakes are coast to coast. Copperheads slither along the east coast. Cottonmouths skim the waters of the southeast and eastern and western coral snakes stalk prey under the night skies.
Bees actually kill more people in the United States each year than snakes, but a general rule of thumb is unless you are severely allergic, your body can stand quite a few bee stings before death. Additionally, you are more likely to just be stung a few times so knowing how to properly treat a bee sting is very important in the outdoors
Ticks are little bit tricker. If you are unlucky enough to contract lyme disease or rocky mountain spotted fever, it’s going to hurt. Picture the most severe flu you’ve ever had and multiple by about a thousand with a dash of dear god let me die. Plus, to make matter worse, unless you tell your doctor about a recent tick bite the diagnosis is often tough to get right the first few times.
Here are a few tips for hiking safely in tick country.
Number 3 - Death by Trampling
Getting trampled to death by a large herbivore would be a very terrible way to meet your maker. As the writer of this article has been chased by and charged by numerous moose we will focus on them in particular.
Bullwinkle is big, dumb, faster than you and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. For a little perspective, according to The Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, it takes approximately 520 pounds of force to crush a human skull. You do the math.
Number 2 - Death from Exposure
As for Exposure, there are many different ways the elements can off you. Most of which are the very worst ways to die in the outdoors. There are too many to list so we will just describe a few.
Hypothermia: Essentially your body loses heat rapidly. You start to violently shiver. Soon you may become disoriented, not ever realize you are dying, and take off your clothes and do snow angels.
Heat stroke: Your body temperature rises to the point you vomit uncontrollably, your bowels release, your muscles violently spasm and then you start to hemorrhage internally before your heart stops.
Starvation. This is a rather long and agonizing way to go. On average a healthy human can survive up to 12 weeks without food, but the pain and suffering along the way may make you wish for death much sooner. Your body starts to slowly shut down once you lose about 30% of your normal body weight. Once you lose roughly 40% death is almost inevitable
Now to… in our opinion… the most terrifying way Mother Nature can kill you...
Number 1 - Death by Bear
You are mountain biking a peaceful forested trail. You come over a bend and, oh no… slam into a grizzly bear walking along the trail. That’s exactly what happened to a seasoned Montana outdoorsman recently. That fateful bike ride would be his last.
Getting eaten by a bear is by far the scariest way to meet your maker we can think of. It’s not just that you’re going to die, it’s that it is going to hurt and likely be a while before your body succumbs to shock. If you spend much time hiking in bear country a basic understanding of how to survive a bear attack, how to use bear spray and knowing how to tell the difference between a black bear and grizzly bear. Remember your response to a black bear attack and a grizzly bear attack are very different.
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