The mass hysteria we feed as part of our fear of the wild within only disables our relationships with the more-than-human. Allow me to explain.
It might not be apparent to the casual Instagram follower, but every single time I run, climb, ski, fish, or spend time outside with my daughter I do so alone, unarmed, and in wilderness (not a State Park or some other peri-urban forest). This thriving wilderness that we call home is full of cougars, bobcats, moose, deer, eagles, bears, and we interact with these neighbors one-on-one many times per week.
Every single run I take I tread where Moose passed mere minutes before, I’ve been followed by Cougar more times than I can count (three times that I know of this last winter alone), and this winter I had the privilege of being followed by a bobcat. I’ve run WITH four moose individuals including one with a calf, one big as fuck bull, and one when I was twenty alone in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The first time a cougar followed me I was alone on snowshoes near Grand Park on Mount Rainier at the age of sixteen.
Every encounter with a furry friend in the woods inspires in me a deeper awareness, an understanding of the truth that I am very small and very insignificant, and that ‘wild’ animals are, in our cultural consciousness, the veritable monster under the bed. Never once has a ‘wild’ animal so much as looked at me askance in the tens of thousands of hours I've spent alone in the woods but do you know what animal is aggressive to me on the reg? Dogs, peoples’ shitty, misbehaving, off-leash dogs. I like to stay away from peopled trails.
As the frequency of my encounters with the wild increases, they become a still-remarkable but entirely normal part of our daily movements in the woods at home. I prefer the kind company of cougar to the unpredictable nature of humans or their dogs any day of the week.
All this to say one thing: If the more-than-human scares you, go walk in a mall - leave the wilderness to those of us who appreciate it and can handle feeling small.