Each year, thousands of campers lose food and equipment to persistent bears, raccoons, ground squirrels and other animals.
enjoy communing with nature.
you go camping, chances are, you and critters are soon going to
cross paths. Most every area is going to have its share of skunks,
possums, and raccoons,
parks and other campsites are alive with wildlife, from birds to
bears to chipmunks to snakes to fish.
important to remember that wild animals are not zoo or domesticated animals.
feed wildlife when you're camping.
best thing to avoid critter encounters is to set up your campsite so
that's it's not quite so attractive to the "beasties".
Raccoons, Ground Squirrels and Skunks
most wild animals are afraid of people, some of them may still
approach our campsites.
leave food in your tent.
Never leave other smellies (deodorant, tooth paste, shampoo, etc.) in your tent (especially in bear country).
Never leave food and smellies in a zipped pack, jacket, duffel bag, etc. Hungry animals will literally chew holes in your nice equipment to get to the food.
creatures of the night are out to steal your food and cause general
dismay at your campsite.
Store food inside your car
plastic or metal ice chest will protect foodstuffs from ravaging
raccoons and ground squirrels, but there is no acceptable portable
container that will reliably discourage bears. Ground squirrels and
raccoons have very sharp teeth and will bore right through a fabric packsack.
Raccoons can open twist lids!
if your camping excursions are going to be limited to established
campgrounds there are some things you need to know.
first rule is
first thing this ensures if you are camping in regions with bears is
that if a bear does wander onto your site it will be much less
interested in your tent, or it's contents.
you have to determine your level of risk. If you're conservative
it's simple, all the food goes into the vehicle at night. Generally
your biggest risk will be raccoons. If your food is in totes make
sure they are tied securely closed with a bungee cord. This method is
not foolproof, trust me. It is a lot of fun to wake up in the middle
of the night and watch the raccoon flailing at the bungee cord. When
you fall asleep it will quietly open the tote and have a field day.
Different types of breads are very popular. However, onion bagels
were not a big hit.
When you get ready to turn in make sure you don't forget any munchies you had out on the table or by the fire. All it takes is one marshmallow that fell off a stick or out of the bag, peanut shell, one Cheeto, etc to fall on the ground. If you do forget to get your edibles packed away you may find yourself stumbling out of your tent to defend your Pringles, peanuts and marshmallows. Some of these campground varmints are quite comfortable around humans and may be perfectly happy to sit and wait you out while you try to scare him away without awakening all of your neighbors.
you use aluminum foil on a grill?
the end of your camping escapade . . .
may even be greeted by a raccoon if you take a midnight stroll to
the case of skunks, shine your light on them and make some small
noise to let them know you're there and their presence is unwanted,
you can stand it, moth balls are a pretty good deterrent for many critters,
If you are in bear country the campground will usually make it very clear to when you check in. All food should be in your vehicle at night. The alternative is hanging bear proof food canisters in the trees. This is beyond the scope of this page and from what I've read isn't a sure bet either.
I'm sure that in different locales there will be different varmints but generally a tidy site will serve you well.
It never hurts to ask the campground hosts what to expect.
The most common advice is to protect foodstuffs by
#1. Store food inside your car.
food cache-like from a tree limb at least 20 feet the ground.
Here are the realities and hazards of each . .
Store food inside your car
This is acceptable even in grizzly country providing you take care to seal all car windows tightly. Bears (especially grizzlies) will insert their claws through the tiniest openings in windows and doors and rip out the glass or metal to get at food. Today's hardtop cars make it relatively easy for a determined bruin to steal food. For this reason, a car trunk is safer than an auto interior.
Expert campers usually do not store their food in trees to protect. it from bears. Instead, they seal the food tightly in plastic to eliminate odors then remove the food from the immediate camp area. Setting the food pack outside the campsite perimeter is usually enough to foil hungry bruins and other animals. The rationale for this procedure is simple: Bears are creatures of habit - they quickly learn that camps, packs and tin cans contain food. In each campsite there is usually only one or two trees with limbs high enough to confidently suspend food packs. But bears aren't stupid; they know the location of these trees by heart and make daily rounds to secure whatever is suspended from them. When they find something (anything!) hanging from "their" tree, they'll get it down, one way or another. All black bears (even fat old sows) can climb to some degree. And cubs shinny like monkeys. If mamma can't get your food pack, the kids probably will! Only polar bears and grizzlies don't climb.
Recommendation: Double bag (in plastic) all foodstuffs, especially meats. Set food packs on low ground (to minimize the travel of odors) well away from the confines of the campsite. Separate food packs by 50 feet or more, an added precaution.
Do not, as commonly advised, put food packs in trees!
truth, far more camping trips are ruined by racoons, skunks, and
smaller creatures than by bears.
Snakes and Scorpions
All snakes "hear" by feeling vibrations in the earth through their bellies. They know you're walking up the trail long before you arrive, assuming of course that you wear shoes. Being terribly nearsighted, snakes can only see you if you move. And, although it may seem like they move quickly, you can easily walk away from the fastest of them.
Snakes will run away from you if you give them an escape route.
NO snake will attack you unless you provoke it or step on it.
Most of the people bitten by poisonous snakes (I believe well over 90%)
were trying to poke at it or capture it. Of the truly
accidental bites, the majority are on the buttocks or hands.
adult cougar needs about 30 sq. miles to roam. That's the size
of a mid-western county, so the odds of an encounter are long.
They also avoid human contact if possible. Only a child or injured
person would be at any real risk of attack. If confronted you
must appear aggressive and as large as possible. Pull your
shirt open and stand tall.
pack of starving wolves and a wounded human would be a scary
situation. Fortunately, that usually only happens in the movies
or TV. Wolves are as smart as the smartest breed of dog, only
independent, and with highly structured societies. They know
humans have to be avoided because it is the human, not the wolf, that
is a terrifying killer. If you should encounter a wolf in the
forest, consider it an omen. You have just been called to go
out and explore beyond the obvious knowledge, and then return to your
clan to teach them of these new things.
animal I give the most ground to is the moose. Most of them
have nasty dispositions. In desert areas expect scorpions
in log or debris piles. Keep your hands away and
use a stick to turn items around before picking up. Always
check sleeping bags before using. Tarantulas are not poisonous,
just large furry spiders. They can bite, however. Give
them some space.
Birds, crows, ravens, and gulls
Observe the same precautions for birds as you would for the small animals and don't leave any food out at an unattended campsite.
Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!
Just the thought of being alone in the wilderness is enough to make most folks shiver. Our heads fill with images of savage creatures just waiting to make us into dinner, all compliments of the silver screen. Who knows what perils await us during the night, alone, and deep in the wilderness?
Unless we happen to know the animals, this unfounded fear can paralyze us in survival situations. Staying put when you become lost can be a terrifying prospect as night falls and you are without matches for a fire or even a simple knife for protection. This fear is so ingrained that panic can overcome simple reasoning. For many, unfortunately, this proves to be fatal.
What is the real danger to you from wild animals?
Just Remember . . .
Most animals move and feed after dark. The scary noise you hear going bump in the night is probably only a doe and her fawn on their nightly rounds.
If there is
only one thing that you learned from this page,
FOOD IN THE TENTS....
Do you think we've resolved the critters?
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Copyright © 2000 Jon's Images, Inc. All rights reserved
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