A Case for Leave No Trace: Animal Attack

AT thru-hiker Tree Trunk was stealth camping on September 3 near Moxie Pond at mile 2,053 in Maine. Around 4:30 in the morning, he heard an animal outside his tent and yelled, “Go away bear!” to try to scare it away. A few moments later, the animal was up against the side of his tent, near his head. Tree Trunk slapped the tent wall in an effort to frighten the animal away. When it still didn’t leave, he hit the tent again.

Tree Trunk and Clementine at Caratunk House, September 2, 2019.

On the second slap, the animal bit down and caught his thumb, biting off a portion of the first knuckle and nail. Tree Trunk commented, “The beast tasted my Australian blood, screamed, and ran off. Figured out it was in for a decent fight it wasn’t going to win.” If you are interested in seeing the tent after the attack (caution: it may be graphic for some), you can scroll to the very bottom of this article. After researching the sounds the animal made and based on the perceived size, the animal was likely a fisher cat.

Fisher cat, image from Creative Commons.

In true Tree Trunk fashion, he asked me to tell his story not because he thinks it’s a good story but because it was a situation that may have been preventable. He arrived at the campsite late in the day and made camp, being sure to properly hang his bear bag away from his tent. In the morning while packing, he noticed that someone had burned and left trash in the fire pit less than 25 yards from the side of the tent where the animal attacked.

According to Leave No Trace (LNT), if you have any trash generated while hiking, it is your responsibility to Pack (clap) It (clap) Out (clap)! Do not burn it. Do not bury it. Do not leave it in the woods. Tree Trunk believes that the trash is what attracted the fisher cat to the campsite and resulted in the attack. If all hikers more closely followed LNT, animal encounters resulting in injury would likely be lessened.

Tree Trunk outside Poet’s Gear Emporium, September 5, 2019.

Due to this injury Tree Trunk is “devastated” that he is being forced to slackpack sections of the 100-Mile Wilderness. Up to this point in his thru-hike he has not slackpacked once and “can’t think of anything worse,” but will be unable to continue the last 115 miles to Katahdin to complete the hike. However, he is planning to continue while taking the time to clean and dress his wound daily for the next six weeks. He is also unable to continue his habit of watercolor and sketching some of his favorite sites along the trail until his thumb heals.

Again, the image below is slightly graphic. If you would like to see the aftermath of the bite on the tent, scroll down.

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Comments 1

  • Dana : Sep 10th

    I hope Tree Trunk’s thumb gets better every day and that he will be able to enjoy the rest of his thru hike of the AT!! I met him while day hiking on the AT, on top of Shenandoah mountain in NY, one sunny and hot day. He was passing through with a couple from Montreal. I was inspired when he told me that he was painting watercolors… Happy Trails Tree Trunk!!!

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