So it’s 36,000 BP, and I’m living in my adobe brick house/mansion/castle, built on a picturesque spot located 2 miles west of what’s now the Savannah River and 1 mile north of the Broad River. A time tunnel connects me to the present in case of emergencies, but otherwise I’m living in an area of the world where there are no other people. In today’s world the only dangerous animals I’m likely to encounter are other humans and their dogs. Gangsters, twisted bullies, or psychos could assault me at any time, but I lower the risk by staying away from low income neighborhoods. Dogs are the only other animal to be wary of. A few years back, I had a neighbor who was freaked out because he saw a rattlesnake which he killed by driving over it. After this incident he seemed annoyed at me–I had let my garden get a little weedy and he spotted a corn snake in it. Yet, this snake-phobic honcho always let his pit bull terrier run loose. Luckily for me, it was only aggressive when I was behind the fence. It would charge and snarl at me as long as I was in my backyard, but when I went to get the mail the nasty canine would retreat and yelp in terror. In my Pleistocene world though I have no human neighbors and no pit bulls to worry about. Instead, there is the megafauna.
Skull of an australopithecus and mandible of a leopard. A leopard apparently killed this hominid. The skull has canine marks matching those of a leopard. Big cats hunt apes by attacking them directly from behind. Man-eating tigers are notorious for attacking humans using this tactic. It’s an intelligent strategy. Even a man with a gun would be killed easily. He’d have no chance to use his weapon.
The walls of my Pleistocene adobe home consist of a double layer of the fat dried bricks. The windows are high off the ground and have steel bars over them. I feel safe inside. I doubt any predator would waste energy trying to dig through the walls. Likewise, my yard with livestock, a garden, grainfields, and a fruit orchard is surrounded by a high wall designed to make it difficult for animals to climb over. A safety problem arises, however, when I choose to make forays outside of my fortress. I use a steamroller to maintain a 3 mile dirt road between the Broad River and a chestnut ridge. I attend fish traps, and I like to take boat rides. And I survey plants and animals for scientific data. These activities take me into the danger zone. I’d definitely be carrying a Glock. Here are the top 10 most dangerous Pleistocene animals in this region that would keep me on the alert.
1-4. The big cats concern me the most. 4 of them are tied for first place–saber-tooths (Smilodon fatalis), scimitar-tooths (Dinobastis serum), giant panthers (Panthera atrox), and jaguars (Panthera onca augusta). A big cat could sneak up on me and jump on my back before I even knew it was there. I would have no chance to draw my gun or retreat to my vehicle. In India tigers learn to kill people by coming at them from directly behind. Some natives wear masks on the back of their heads–a tactic that confuses man-eating tigers and prevents attacks. An attack from behind would mean instant death. Pleistocene big cats in southeastern North America have not yet learned to fear man and might be more likely to attack than not.
5. I rank cougars (Puma concolor) behind the other big cats. Pleistocene cougars were on average 5% larger than modern cougars and probably considerably bolder, but still they’re a smaller cat that I might be able to box off me, giving me a chance to use my gun. Nevertheless, if one attacks me from directly behind, I’m in trouble. This rear-attacking tactic may be learned. Maybe naive Pleistocene cats would attack humans from the front. I can only hope this is the case.
Photos from google images of elephants running amok. The man in the bottom image was killed by that elephant calf.
6-7. Mastodons (Mammut american) and mammoths (Mammuthus colombi) are in a tie for 6th place. I believe proboscideans unaccostomed to people would be peaceful animals unless protecting young–a situation easily avoided. However, when male proboscideans become ready to mate, they go berserk, attacking everything in sight, including other elephants, rhinos, and people. Even male elephants kept in captivity often go amok. Although I can see an animal this large approaching, a Glock might be an impotent weapon. A gunshot might just infuriate it more. And the great beast could overturn my vehicle, if I manage to escape inside.
I wouldn’t want to face an angry herd of bovines.
8. Long-horned bison (Bison latifrons) were likely very aggressive animals–an adaptive behavioral response to an environment populated with lots of predators. I should be able to see them from a distance and avoid them. However, I enjoy eating steaks, roasts, hamburgers, and chili. If a bison wandered near my adobe home, I might want to shoot it for the meat. Its companions might hang around or return to protect the carcass.
9. Both black bears (Ursus americanus) and giant short-faced bears (Arctodus simus) could be trouble. I should be able to avoid these clumsy, noisy animals, but I better be on the lookout. A gunshot would probably just piss the thick monsters off.
10. Dire wolves didn’t use stealth, so I think I can avoid a wolf pack. I wouldn’t want one, let alone a pack, of these hard-biting brutes to get between me and my vehicle. I’m certain they’d have no fear of a man. They didn’t learn to fear men until it was too late.