What Observations Have Been Your Most Dangerous/Hard to Get?

In 1970 I traveled by outrigger to the west coast of Flores to observe these coconuts (check out the 2nd photo).


For me, it would have to be everything on this day like: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/52158745
Going on an off-trail hike at Alamo canyon in Organ Pipe NP (recommended by the visitor center!). It was a beautiful area, although we were wondering about the broad trail we could follow. Late in the day and very close to our parked car we met two fellows in the canyon with strangely rectangular shaped backbacks- your friendly mexican marijuana drug smugglers. And no cellular and emergency reception. And they were right in the way out of the canyon.
We escaped by gesticulating the three no see-no hear- no talk monkeys and running up thorugh the bush over the mountain into the next side canyon. The border patrol agent we met when leaving the check point at the park exit just drily answered “yes, they probably had guns” when we mentioned the incident. Yikes!
That made me appreciate that at least in Germany on a nature hike, no one and no animal usually wants to kill me…
And lesson learned: don’t follow well traveled trails close to the Mexican boarder if there is no official park trail there…


That time I got stupidly close to a timber rattlesnake because I was so excited. It was my first, but never again.


Reminds of the time we camped in an open grassland about a mile or so from the US-Mexico border. After dark we saw lights from headlamps moving north and maybe 200-300 yards from our campsite. I think they were trying to avoid our camp and they were probably immigrants and not smugglers. But still a bit creepy as we were in a wide open area.

On a different occasion I was birding near the border when a border patrol agent pulls up fast and says I’d best move off the road I was on as someone was making a run north in a vehicle from the border and I might be in the way. I moved to a different road pretty quick.


This one in the garden:
With a dog and a bear, it was unpredictable. Some situations are just potentially dangerous. But, I also have had a few moments where I’ve almost fallen trying to get a picture or stepped into poison ivy or nettles without thinking. I now try to consider more what I’m about to do. If the risk of getting hurt is present or getting lost, I let the picture go. Nothing out there (not even a passenger pigeon :wink:) is worth serious injury or not finding my way back.


“Me gusta tacos. Donde está el baño?” That kind of friendly?


My spanish is not that good :rofl:

That reminds me of when I had a group of migrant kids run out of the bush in the middle of the Arizona desert and into my car the moment I parked because they thought I was their coyote. That was a five seconds and you’re either dead or alive scare.

I was excited to finally be back in the desert checking on field sites after my old car had died and I got a new one. This site is low enough in elevation to still get lots of cool flies in the winter months and just outside protected land (but 100 miles north of the border so I wasn’t expecting migrants to still be trekking.) I drove up, put the car in park and started to gather up my gear from the driver’s seat when suddenly a group of about 5 older teenage guys sprinted out of the bushes 20 feet away up to my car. Within 2 seconds they reached the vehicle and one of them opened the rear passenger-side door and started climbing in. I was stunned but blurted out in Spanish “I’m not with you guys! What do you need?” and we looked at each other. A few seconds later the boys bolted back into the bushes, having realized I wasn’t their scheduled pick-up after all. Being foolhardy, I waited a few minutes then got out to go find some flies, periodically calling out “I’m just looking for insects, don’t want any trouble” (e.g., https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/145638628). Heard another vehicle drive up 5 min later that must have been the actual coyote, luckily I was deep in the brush by then.

Other contenders include the time at a different Arizona site where I came across a still-fresh voodoo sacrifice (a dead chicken with blood dripping out laying on top of some underwear and flowers in a circle in the sand). Or had too-close encounters with rattlesnakes (a few in Arizona) or bears (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/134093536). Or fell while birding on a rocky slope and hurt my shoulder for weeks (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/153146217). Or went into anaphylactic shock on an expedition in the middle of nowhere Mongolia after eating some nuts.


I nominate Tristan for the Indiana Jones award.


Seconded. All in favor, say "It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage."

(Also, why is there a top hat object emoji, but not a brown fedora? This seems wrong to me.) :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


I haven’t had many since starting here but otherwise, I have had so many close calls in my life I lost count. Some weren’t even my fault. I mean, they couldn’t all be my fault…entirely…all the time.

Being shot at probably wasn’t my fault. At least not every time. I mean, probably…


I don’t have that many dangerous observations. Not for lack of trying, it’s just that whenever I take a stupid risk (mostly water- or heights-related) it doesn’t pay off, which I guess is teaching me the right lesson.

These seals probably qualify. I was in the bay of the Somme with my father, we had had little luck finding seals so when I spotted some far in the distance on a sandbank I basically ignored all common sense (and my father’s very specific warnings) and rushed to find a better spot. I got very lucky, with the rising tide they left the bank and came to check what the weird man lying in the sand was doing. The sun is going down, the light is fantastic, I’m taking hundreds of photos and it takes until my father runs to warn me to notice that I’m being surrounded by the tide.

Another one for which I have no observation was in the forest in Raismes (Northern France). I’m trying to take a photo of a blackcap in the bushes when I hear a very loud gunshot and feel what I think was some wood splinter from a nearby tree. I loudly make my presence (and displeasure) known then decide I’m probably better off not trusting that I don’t look enough like a boar.


I agree Tristan should officially be called the “Indiana Jones of Inaturalist”!

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Probably the most dangerous thing most of us do while pursuing our interest in nature is highway driving. Unfortunately I’ve known a few naturalists and biologists who lost their lives in car accidents while traveling to or from study sites or locations where they could photo organisms. So be careful out there.


Or trying to save an animal in the road. I know a field biologist who sadly died due to this as well.



I regularly put myself in positions that, probably, quite a few people might consider somewhat risky. Wandering alone at night, at one instance even getting somewhat lost, in deserts along borders in conflict zones. Taking that ill advised short cut down the all too steep mountainside or across the glacier. Running out of water. Getting up close and personal with all sorts of venomous animals (mostly snakes, though I’ve always had the good sense to steer clear of bites, something that, for whatever reason, can’t be said of venomous fish stings, which I’ve had the dubious pleasure of experiencing from three different species). Somewhat unnerving close up encounters with the likes of large wild boars and packs of feral dogs.


Yet in all of these cases I’ve never really been worried but actually felt quite safe. There is, however, one thing that does worry me (and where I hope and believe I have learnt my lesson).


Especially driving long hours at night in a state of severe sleep deprivation. In one such instance, long ago, I found myself swerving and nearly losing control of the vehicle as I almost dozed off going through the curves at too high speed in the central Negev. My wake up call, both literally and figuratively.

This, however, is only my #2 on the list, #1 being reserved for another desert driving incident, though in this case it had nothing to do with lack of sleep, long hours, or night time.

I had already been down this coastal road in southern Morocco a couple of times, so I guess by now I was feeling a bit too comfortable with the loose chippings on the surface. I honestly thought I was going at a safe, slow pace, but entering a curb the car slid and I lost control completely, only regaining it after maybe 150 feet or more (a guess, honestly, really don’t remember), precipitously close to dropping off the vertical edge onto the rocks far below as I was already feeling guilty about my immediately impending, self inflicted and all too random death.

Both of these incidents happened on great field trips with lots of spectacular finds, but neither was directly linked with any specific observation.


Perhaps this one where a I nearly stepped on an Eastern Brown snake, or this one where the paralysis tick was already on me, or this one where I had to reach as far as I could without falling into a ravine.


For me it was photographing a Ussuri Mamushi (Gloydius ussuriensis). Stopped paying as much attention to the distance as I tried to get a better shot through the foliage and only really realized how close I had gotten when it lunged at me.


Observing Gloydius halys in the Gobi desert. It was not moving at all so I got closer and closer, maybe until 20 cm. I think it was reckless and dangerous.


A sparrow in Lubumbashi
(DR Congo). Why should photo a sparrow be dangerous? Let’s better ask “why is it dangerous to photo in DR Congo”?
While taking photos in Lubumbashi, we were accosted by people claiming to be from the police or the ministry of tourism (!), in civilian clothes and without showing any official badge. They said it was forbidden to take photos in the street. The tense discussion lasted half an hour, they wanted to take us to the police station. Although my aunt lived there and spoke Swahili, we only got out by giving a little money. I think photography is dangerous in some countries or regions. Be careful, you may be considered as a spy or be ransomed.