The outdoors is one massive natural playground. But it isn’t just for humans. Animals live in natural habitats, and it’s important for us to remember that we are coming into their home.
Every camper needs to know the right wildlife safety tips to stay safe in the great outdoors. Not only to keep us safe, but to protect animals from dangers we might bring.
Whether you’re a rookie or an experienced backpacker, it’s always important to brush up on your knowledge before you head out to the trails.
The possibility of encounters with wild animals can be dangerous, but it shouldn’t stop you from having a great camping trip. Many of these situations are rare and extreme, and as long as you follow these preventative tips you’ll have a safe and super fun time!
Follow These Wildlife Safety Tips on Your Next Camping Trip
Any encounter with a wild animal, regardless of what kind of animal it is, can be dangerous for many reasons.
Firstly, wild animals can carry diseases that you can’t necessarily see, like salmonella. But close contact with these animals, or their droppings, can make you or your pets sick.
Never approach an animal that looks like it’s been left alone, especially a baby animal. Chances are, the mom is right around the corner and won’t appreciate you touching her baby.
Always lock up your food in your vehicle when you go to bed so wild animals don’t smell it. Remember, it’s just a canvas wall that separates them from their next meal.
Specific animals also require specific precautions that you need to know about. Here are some of the most common types of animals you could encounter when you’re camping- and how to stay safe.
Raccoons: These Bandits do More Than Steal Your Snacks
Raccoons are notorious for coming into your campsite and stealing your food.
But raccoons can cause more harm than just a missing lunch.
Wild animals cause 9 out of 10 cases of rabies in the United States every year, and 50% of those cases are from raccoons alone.
Baby raccoons might be cute, but stay away. Do not feed them, because they will come back.
If you do get bit by a raccoon, go to the hospital as soon as you can. They’ll give you some shots to help prevent rabies, and flush out any antibodies that might contain it.
Wildlife Safety Tips for Skunks
You don’t really need to worry too much about a skunk bite. But with these camping pests, you have to worry about their spray.
Skunks spray when they get defensive. If one enters your campsite, just stay very still and don’t threaten it. When they do spray, they do a little dance on two legs, then turn around and spray. If this happens, you better run really fast or close your eyes.
Bring a skunk repellent to your campsite and spray it around the outside to prevent skunks.
There are a few options for this, including home remedies and leaving vinegar soaked rags lying around. For some reason, skunks don’t like the smell of vinegar.
What to do if I See a Bear
The truth is that you’re likely not going to see a bear, let alone be in harm’s way of one. But it’s important to understand how to keep yourself safe from bears, especially since they live in every state.
Always store your food in your vehicle. Once they get a taste of human food or garbage, they’ll come back for it. And your vehicle is one of the only places they can’t get into.
You can also store it in a bear-resistant food cache, suspended 10-15 feet above the ground. This needs to be at least 4 feet from each vertical support.
Additionally, some bears learn to find food in campgrounds and will frequently come back. These bears are known to be more aggressive and dangerous because they know you’re standing in the way of their food.
When you go to sleep, don’t sleep in the clothes you cooked in and don’t take any garbage or food inside with you.
5 Steps For Handling a Bear Encounter
Here are some recommended steps to take if you do encounter a bear, provided by the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
- DON’T RUN. If you run, a bear’s predatory instincts will take over and it’ll chase you. And it will catch you. Bears can run at 35 miles per hour.
- If the bear doesn’t see you, quietly and calmly leave the area.
- Identify yourself as a human by calmly talking to the bear and moving your arms slowly up and down at your sides. This will let the bear know that you’re a human and not another predator.
- Do not make direct eye contact with the bear.
- Back away slowly, never turn your back on it, and keep talking to it.
If the bear begins to attack, or move toward you, stop backing up. When the bear stops moving, then you can continue backing up. If it attacks you, play dead. Lay flat, face down, on the ground and put your arms over your head and neck.
Do not move until you’re sure the bear is gone.
Snakes: A Variety of Possibilities
Most of the time, the snakes you encounter aren’t going to be dangerous. Backcountry camping or hiking is where you’re most likely to see a rattlesnake or poisonous snake.
In the United States, rattlesnakes can live anywhere, but there are generally warning signs when you enter their habitats. Rattlesnakes are the most common type of dangerous snake in this country.
To avoid rattlesnakes, wear boots when hiking and stick to the trails during the day. Take a stick with you, and if you need to enter a bushy area, rustle the brush before you go in so any snakes have time to flee.
Rattlesnakes tend to live in rock piles, shady areas, wood piles, and when it’s warm out they tend to sun themselves on rocks. Avoid using your hands to turn over rock piles and always watch where you’re stepping.
If you do get bit, go to a hospital immediately. Do not elevate the area on the way, because this could spread the venom further. Remove any clothing or restrictive accessories from the area of the bite.
Encounters With Dangerous Insects
You may not encounter a bear or a snake on your trip, but you will surely encounter a variety of insects.
Insect bites can not only get infected or cause allergic reactions, but this is also an easy way for disease to spread. Even a simple mosquito can carry a virus.
Not to mention that some insect bites really hurt! To ease the pain and the itch, always carry some polysporin or hydrocortisone cream. If the bites start to swell, take an anti-inflammatory like Advil.
Unfortunately, insects are also hard to escape. Always make sure you’re wearing strong bug repellent, even during the day.
Ticks are especially dangerous because they can carry lyme disease, and they can bury themselves in your skin.
Always check for ticks as soon as you get back to your campsite. Remove them as soon as you see them. You generally have about 24 hours to take a tick out of your skin before the disease will spread.
Here’s a quick video you can watch to learn how to properly check for ticks.
Wildlife Can be Scary, But Planning Your Camping Trip Doesn’t Have to Be
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