At the onset let me warn everyone that a Tiger is a perfect killing machine. So the best way to fight him is, not to fight him. This is a note from some personal past experiences and wisdom of locals who occasionally meet the Tiger on foot in their own backyard. It is quite possible that on your safari holiday you might also encounter a Tiger on foot inadvertently and unintentionally.
Please do not be anxious about how this might happen. Quite simply, the national parks of India do not have any fence or walls. The Tigers move in and around the national parks to mark their territory, and in search of food. So often they come out of the forest and visit the outskirts of the resorts and the villages.
What to do when you encounter a Tiger on foot?
It is important to know that generally, a Tiger is not interested in human beings. It is often noticed that he will leave the trail if he hears or sees you on the same trail. Having said this, it does not mean that you throw the caution to the winds. Also, there are times that a Tiger would do a mock charge, i.e. come halfway fully charging, then stop, turn around, and run away. These are serious and life-threatening situations, so you cannot take any charge lightly, hence it is best to be prepared, and remember the below points if you happen to remember when you encounter a Tiger on foot.
Stay calm when you encounter a tiger on foot
If you happen to sight a Tiger first then stay mum. Be breathless if possible. It is not easy not to get nervous, but your stillness before he notices you is your major chance of escape. If he has not noticed you, then stay quiet, wait for him to move on, and you later move in the opposite direction. Escaping should be the only motive, and avoid being foolishly heroic. Your anxiety can force a Tiger to take a step which he is not inclined to, i.e. attack you.
Pray when you encounter a tiger on foot
Whether you are a believer or an atheist there is no better time than this to start praying.
Stand up tall when you encounter a Tiger on foot
If you happen to be sitting on the trail, please stand up gradually, and stand tall. The Tiger must see you as a human being and not any unsuspecting prey animal. Tigers usually attack their prey from behind, especially when they happen to be sitting. He will mistake you for a small prey animal and charge. Hence stand up. By doing so, you have cleared to him that you are a human and not his natural prey.
Signs that a Tiger is upset with you
If the Tiger is upset with you, he will show it by a growl, or he might take a stalking position. Now, what is a stalking position? Basically, before a Tiger attacks, he crouches, his ears rollback, he freezes, focuses on his prey, snarls, and charge. If he is taking that position, then you need to start backing up. Do not show your back to him, rather slowly and steadily just back up. When you love a dog his ears rollback, but not so with a Tiger. So please do not mistake Tiger’s rolled back ears that he needs to be loved. It is a clearcut warning to you, that he does not like your presence. Hence keep backing off slowly until the Tiger is well out of sight.
Never run when you encounter a tiger on foot
When you encounter a Tiger on foot, never run. Tigers are trained to chase anything running and kill.
You will need to excuse me for the shake in the above image. This was the best I could get when I had a Tiger growling and flying towards me. I somehow feel it could have been a lot sharper had other people in my Jeep not got hassled, and decided to shout and jump at the same time. Perhaps that did the trick and he abandoned his pursuit and turned back, but I lost a sharp image. This image perhaps needs another blog post altogether, so I would restrain myself from digressing further.
Climb a Tree when you encounter a tiger on foot
If there is a tree nearby, and the Tiger is a bit far, and you know how to climb a tree quickly, then go ahead. But be sure to reach at least 15 feet high before stopping, as Tigers can jump up to 15 feet comfortably to get you down. Imagine how much is 15 feet, close to one and a half floor. So do it quickly if you can, else do not attempt.
If you encounter a Sloth Bear or a Leopard then the option of climbing the tree is out as they are both expert climbers, more so the Leopard.
Forest guard who fought a Sloth Bear while patrolling.
I met the above forest guard in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, have forgotten his name, but will never forget my encounter with him. He had a bare hand fight with a Sloth Bear while on his patrolling rounds. The Sloth Bear stood on his hind legs and fought with him for good 10 minutes. He did not lose hope and kept fighting. The Sloth Bear inserted his claws in the skull of the guard, but he kept on fighting. Perseverance, self-belief, and not giving in saved him, but left him badly injured.
Make noise when you encounter a tiger on foot
If you have some metal, or something in your hand which you can make noise with, do it now. But do this only if you see that the Tiger has made up his mind to charge. If you have nothing on your hand, and Tiger is charging, then shout as hard and as long as you can.
Fight if you must and have no choice when you encounter a tiger on foot
When push comes to shove and you are not left with any choice then it is best to use the presence of mind, and when a Tiger charges and jumps at you do the following:
Get as close as possible to him when he attacks you.
Hug him tight. Do not give him any breathing space. Hugging a Tiger can surprise him. All carnivores prefer distance, the fact that even while mating Tigers growl at each other, and avoid any physical closeness suggests that they avoid physical contact. Even Tigers fighting with each other keep distance. Initially, they would slap each other, and wait to take a bite at the jugular vein on the neck of the opponent. Hence keep your neck away.
It is your weapon vs his claws and canines when you encounter a tiger on foot
Pick whatever you can, stick, branch, rock, and use it to protect yourself by hitting him.
Remember his weapons are his claws and canines, so stay away from them. Your weapon is whatever you get or have in hand. With his canines and claws, he can hurt fatally. Tigers avoid fights. But if they get into the fight they will go for the kill, until and unless they are surprised by you, and just want to escape.
Continue to shout, and be as close as possible to him. Avoid his fatal bite, as not only it can kill, but it can give you some serious infection as his canines have a lot of bacteria.
His weak spots could be his eyes, and nose, so strike hard there if you can.
If there is a water body close by, or a river, do not get into it until you have won a gold in the Olympics. Tigers are great swimmers and will outpace you much sooner than you suspect.
Last but not least continue to pray, and give in your best. Your best chance of survival will be the swiftness and shrewdness.
Let me end by saying what I started with, that the best way to fight a Tiger is not to fight a Tiger.
With prayers from me that you never encounter a Tiger on foot in the Tiger country.
– Sharad Vats