Recounting a tale about a young US adventurer who has survived attacks by a bear, a shark and a rattlesnake – all within the last three years – sounds a lot like a very tall story indeed. Yet this is exactly what 20-year-old Dylan McWilliams has experienced. And even though McWilliams spends a lot of his time in the open air and enjoys visiting challenging outdoor environments, the odds against suffering (and surviving) three such onslaughts from some of Mother Nature’s most dangerous wild animals must be very slim indeed.
So what exactly happened to produce this crazy sequence of events? Here’s a run down of Dylan’s amazing escapades:
A Utah rattler
The first exploit occurred when Dylan, then a mere inquisitive 17-year-old, was on a hiking trip in the US state of Utah. While he was trekking through vegetation, he ended up kicking what the imagined was some kind of cactus. Unfortunately, this was no prickly desert plant, but a coiled-up rattlesnake that resented the disturbance. As he later described it to the BBC: “I was walking down a trail and I thought I kicked a cactus but couldn’t see one, and then saw a rattlesnake all coiled up.”
Though he did receive a bite from the startled rattler as a result of this close encounter, Dylan, who is looking to begin a career in the police force, made the decision not to take a trip to the nearest hospital. It seems he was fairly sure that, because it was only a ‘dry’ bite, his life was not in any immediate danger. But the former survival training instructor did not escape entirely unscathed. “There was a little venom so I did get a bit sick for a couple of days,” he said.
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A bear with attitude
The second episode in this outdoor trilogy happened while McWilliams was backpacking his way across the US and Canada. An outdoor enthusiast who hails from the town of Grand Junction beside the great Colorado river in western Colorado, Dylan had been supporting himself during this extensive trek by taking on any odd jobs he was offered. These included conventional experiences, such as working as a ranch hand. However, because his grandfather had taught him how to survive in the wild – even as a youngster of just three or four – Dylan was also able to put this knowledge, and his love of the outdoors, to practical use. As he explained: “I’ve been teaching kids and people, whoever wants, how to survive in the wilderness and live off the land like the explorers did.”
Using those survival skills was exactly what he was doing on a Colorado camping trip in July, 2017. Sleeping outdoors as he often did, Dylan suddenly awoke at around 4 a.m. to find his head clamped in the jaws of a bear who seemed anything but friendly. Understanding this was no time for a passive response, he sprang into action.
“This black bear grabbed me by the back of the head, and I was fighting back, poking it in the eye until it let me go,” said Dylan. The bear’s assault soon roused the remaining backpackers, causing the 136kg (300 pound) male bear to reconsider his tactics. So after first dragging and stomping all over his would-be victim, the angry carnivore then released his grip and walked off to find some less belligerent prey.
Once Dylan reported the incident, the park authorities captured the bear on the following day. Forensic tests soon established that there were traces of outdoorsman Dylan’s blood still on the bear’s claws. The animal was subsequently put down and McWilliams now has nine staples in the back of his scalp to remind him of the incident. Though he has scarring and the area is still painful to touch, this young wilderness freak remains determined to continue his active outdoor exploring.
Bloody shark attack
The third instalment of Dylan’s brush with the animal kingdom happened in Thursday, 19 April, 2018, when he was enjoying some body boarding in the waters off the coast of Hawai. While he was enjoying riding the Pacific rollers, he noticed a strange feeling, as if something in the water had hit his leg.
“I saw the shark underneath me,” he later explained, “I started kicking at it – I know I hit it at least once – and swam to shore as quickly as I could.” Dylan quickly realised his leg was oozing blood, but luckily, he managed to swim the distance of around 30 yards back to the safety of the shore.
His marine attacker was believed to be a tiger shark some six to eight foot in length. The shark’s attentions have left Dylan with some impressive teeth marks in his lower leg which required seven stitches. “I didn’t know if I lost half my leg or what,” he told local reporters.
Reflecting on his fortunes to date, Dylan said to a BBC interviewer: “I don’t seem to have a lot of luck but it’s kind of lucky in unlucky situations.”