Thanks to National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, most people understand how brutal the animal kingdom can be. Then there are these folks, who know firsthand the ferocious capabilities of an aggressive creature in the wild (or, in one case, a friend’s backyard). Please note: some readers might find these true stories disturbing.
Todd Bairstow vs. Crocodile
Croc attacks aren’t exactly rare; in certain parts of the world, they’re downright common. But an hour-long wrestling match between a man and a crocodile isn’t something you see everyday. Bairstow was presumably enjoying a sunny day of fishing near Australia’s Weipa peninsula when a saltwater crocodile attacked him and dragged him beneath the water. The animal proceeded to squeeze, bite and otherwise cause bodily harm to Bairstow for more than an hour, but the stubborn miner never gave up. He lost a finger and suffered two broken legs during the ordeal. But crikey, he sure showed that croc who was boss.
Maen vs. Komodo Dragon
To be fair, anyone who works as a park ranger in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park shouldn’t be too surprised if they come across the world’s largest (living) reptile on a regular basis. But in 2009, a ranger known as Maen encountered a Komodo dragon in a rather unlikely place – the small space under his office desk. Maen reacted as any other startled individual might: he jerked his legs away from the animal and attempted to get the hell away from his workspace. But before he could escape, the dragon clamped down on his leg and dragged him beneath the desk. In the struggle, Maen successfully pinned the dragon with his other foot and forced its jaws open; this freed his leg, but in the process the animal began munching on his hand. His screams alerted several other park employees in the area, who quickly responded and extricated poor Maen from his attacker. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and underwent emergency surgery, followed by six months of recovery. As of last fall, Maen was still a ranger at Komodo National Park.
Charla Nash vs. Chimpanzee
The media has done a fairly good job of deceiving the public about chimpanzees; we think they’re cuddly and almost human, when in reality most chimps are aggressive death machines that are twice as strong as a grown man. Charla Nash knows this better than anyone. In 2009, she visited a friend who just happened to own a chimpanzee as a pet. For reasons that are still unknown, the animal pounced on Nash and proceeded to rip off her nose, ears, eyelids, lips and hands. Fortunately, police officers were able to kill the animal before it killed Nash. However, the damage was still severe; Nash was blinded and forced to undergo an entire face transplant (making her the first patient to do so). This article contains photos of Nash prior to the attack, after the attack (these are graphic and NSFW) and since her successful face transplant.
Eric Nerhus vs. Great White Shark
If you want to come face to face with a dangerous shark, there’s arguably no better place to do that than the Australian coastline. Eric Nerhus, an accomplished diver, was exploring the murky waters near Eden, New South Wales, when he encountered a great white shark. Before he could swim to safety, the shark opened its terrifyingly large jaws and attempted to swallow the diver headfirst. Nerhus would surely have been killed were it not for the utility belt draped over his shoulder. The shark was unable to sink in its teeth and Nerhus managed to push his fingers into the animal’s eye sockets. Once the shark retreated, Nerhus was pulled to safety and taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for lacerations and a broken nose.
Plur Nilssen vs. Polar Bear
In 2010, Nilssen and his friend Ludvig Fjeld took part in a kayaking expedition around the frigid Svalbard Islands of Norway. The two men were resting in their tents one afternoon when Nilssen began to scream. Fjeld emerged from his tent and could only watch as a polar bear dragged his partner roughly 130 feet across the icy ground by his head. Fortunately, Ludvig was a damn good shot; he quickly fetched his rifle and fired four shots, eventually killing the bear. Nilssen was taken to the nearest hospital, where he was treated for multiple lacerations on his face, neck and chest; according to doctors, he remained conscious throughout the entire attack.
P.J. Schalow vs. Mountain Lion
Bears and wolves get all the notoriety, but experienced outdoors people consider the mountain lion (also known as a cougar or puma) to be North America’s most terrifying predator. Paul John Schalow, or P.J., knows firsthand – he survived a mountain lion attack when he was 10 years old. In 2008, he and some relatives celebrated his birthday in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest. As the family congregated for a picnic lunch, a female mountain lion emerged from the woods. Before anyone noticed the cat, she was within feet of P.J. and his younger cousin, Brittany. The terrified adults told the two children to remain calm, and that’s exactly what they did, even as the mountain lion scratched at P.J.’s back and attempted to chew on the boy’s head. “I was lucky,” P.J. told Today, cementing his reputation as the most bad-ass kid ever. “She had dull teeth.” Before the cougar could do any serious damage, one of P.J.’s relatives put it down with a well-aimed pistol round. The craziest part of all: an autopsy later revealed the cat was rabid, which somewhat explained the normally shy animal’s willingness to establish contact with humans in broad daylight.
Paul Templer vs. Hippopotamus
Did you know that hippos are the deadliest animals in Africa, responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths on the continent every year? Paul Templer can attest; he narrowly escaped death during a 1996 canoe trip along the Zimbabwean stretch of the Zambezi River. Without much warning, a hippo sprang from the water and pulled Templer, an experienced river guide, into the water headfirst. The animal’s powerful jaws severed an artery in his chest, but miraculously also sealed it, preventing Templer from bleeding to death and ultimately aided his survival. “I went straight down his throat,” he later told The Chicago Tribune; he lost an arm and suffered severe lacerations from the hippo’s sharp tusks, but his spine and vital organs were relatively unscathed.