Are you walking around your local woods and fields with a head full of myths and false information? I hope not. But in order to make sure, let’s shed some light on some widespread outdoorsman’s lore.
“Cut a snakebite and suck out the venom.”
BUSTED: That went out 50 years ago. Snake venom is a highly specialized digestive tonic for snakes. As soon as the venom hits your flesh, it latches onto tissue – so there’s nothing there to suck out. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate the wound) it, and get to a doctor who has the right antivenin.
“Moss only grows on the north side of a tree.”
MOSTLY BUSTED: Moss can grow on the north side of a tree; but depending on your latitude, the moss species and the local weather, moss can grow anywhere on a tree trunk. In the northern hemisphere, the sun follows a southerly path, which can cause moss and related vegetation to grow on the south-facing side of trees and rocks.
“Chop the top off a cactus, it’s full of water.”
BUSTED: While cactus flesh is succulent, there is no drinkable liquid inside the plant.
“If an animal eats it, you can eat it.”
MOSTLY BUSTED: Even fellow mammals like deer and squirrels can eat mushrooms and berries that would kill a human. Deer can eat buckets full of pokeberries, while just a handful of them would kill a person. Yes, animals can also eat plenty of edible plants that are edible for humans, but don’t trust anything like this to chance.
“You can’t sharpen a knife with a rock.”
BUSTED: Where do you think sharpening stones came from originally? Select a smooth, rounded stone that fits nicely in your hand and keep an eye on wayward fingertips.****
“If a tick bites you, you WILL get Lyme disease.”
BUSTED: Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. If you find a tick biting you, DON’T try to burn it off. Lube it up with Vaseline or wait for it to fall off. Carefully pull it straight out using tweezers to grasp the tick’s head. Avoid squeezing the juice from its body into your skin.
“Whiskey warms the blood and can prevent hypothermia.”
BUSTED: Never give booze to someone who is, or may be, hypothermic. Alcohol is a vasoconstrictor, which means it limits the flow of blood. Hot chocolate is a better drink, but beverages aside, nothing beats skin-on-skin rewarming. I know, Saint Bernards carried casks of brandy around their necks for avalanche victims, but consider this: we also used to think the world was flat. Skip the alcohol in a cold-weather emergency.
“Clear, fast moving water at high elevations is safe to drink.”
BUSTED: The diverse and plentiful pathogens that cause human illness can be in any water, anywhere. Boil, filter or chemically treat your water every time to be safe.
Chime in with your own wilderness myths in the comments below.