There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.
~ Aldo Leopold
Hiking along trails into the Nova Scotia wilderness has become a popular pastime in recent years. For many, it offers an opportunity to see wild things in their natural surroundings.
Last year, when a young female hiker was killed by a coyote in Cape Breton, many Nova Scotians called for a bounty on coyotes. The call was reiterated last week, when a young woman was again attacked by a coyote near Lunenburg.
The Department of Natural Resources in the province does not believe that bounties on coyotes work. One was unsuccessfully employed here in the 1980s.
As a precaution while hiking in the wilderness, the Department of Natural Resources recommends:
- making noise
- not walking alone
- carrying a hiking stick
Following their recommendations seems more reasonable than putting forth the idea of getting rid of all coyotes in the province for the sake of a couple of bad ones.
- A couple of homemade hiking sticks
Last fall, many family members laughed at me when I created a couple of hiking sticks for use along the Salt Marsh Trail where I’d seen a coyote last year. They doubted if a stick would be useful in an attack and probably thought such sticks were best carried by the likes of wizards such as Gandalf and other old men.
On my first walk along the trail with my stick, another hiker asked me in passing if that was my coyote stick. Maybe my idea wasn’t so far fetched after all.
Though I used the stick several times, it was a nuisance to remember to bring it along. I eventually began leaving it at home, especially on days when I was hoping to take photographs. You need to find a place to rest your stick if you hold your camera with two hands as I frequently do.
However, in light of this more recent attack, I’m wondering once again if carrying a big stick would be a good idea.
Recently, while reading ‘The Places in Between’ about Rory Stewart’s journey on foot across Afghanistan, I was surprised to come across the idea of walking sticks being used to fend off wildlife…
I had carried the ideal walking stick through Pakistan. It was five feet long and made of polished bamboo with an iron top and bottom; I had walked with it for nine months but had not brought it into Afghanistan. It was called a dang, and Jats, a farming caste from the Punjab, used to carry them, partly for self-protection, until the middle of the twentieth century. Many people in both the Pakistani and Indian Punjab still had their grandfathers’ sticks in their houses… One man told me that his great-grandfather had killed the last lion in the Punjab with his dang; striking the ground on every fourth step gave a rhythm to my movement…
As I walked out an old man with a bushy white beard looked at the stick.
“You’re carrying it for the wolves, I presume,” he said.
“And the humans.”
~ Rory Stewart, The Places in Between
Perhaps we westerners could stand to learn a thing or two from folks in the East about the advantages of walking with a big stick.
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