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Keeping The Bears Away
Camping in a national park or wilderness area is both fun, fulfilling and exciting. There is something about going out and pitching your tent, building a camp site that will take care of your basic needs and cooking, eating and sleeping in that camp site that gives you a sense of satisfaction. Perhaps it is the knowledge that you were able to do something outside of your comfort zone and take care of yourself in a natural setting that makes camping so enjoyable. On top of that, living in the outdoors for a few days is a tremendous change of pace from city life and it’s a healthy and inexpensive vacation for the whole family.
It goes without saying that there are right ways and wrong ways to camp. If you just started out on your adventure into camping, you know that how to pick your equipment and the skills of camping do not come naturally to everyone. But they are fun skills to learn and over time, if you stick with it, you will become a seasoned old camper ready to train other “rookies” in how to do it right.
The “rights and wrongs” of camping are not arbitrary rules. Each and every one of the guidelines for camping are there for your safety and comfort so your camp out experience will be one you will treasure with fond memories and want to get right back out there and camp again. One of the things about camping that makes it exciting is that it is not an environment that is constructed for you. There are dangers in the wilderness and there are things that can go wrong. Unlike going to Disneyworld, nobody will be there to make sure everything goes ok and there are lots of things that can go wrong while camping. How you prepare for and respond to changes in weather, equipment emergencies and other things that can happen in the wild will be the determining factor of whether you are a novice or seasoned camper.
One such unknown and “wild card” in any camping situation is that there are animals and living things out there with you that may make their presence known in your camp site. From insects, to birds to raccoons to bears, the wilderness is their home and you are the visitor there. The arrival of an animal near or in camp can be a fun and thrilling treat or a source of bother or even a potential danger if you don’t take precautions to control those curious guests.
In many campgrounds, the local beasts are aware of what campers are all about, that you are not a danger to them and that you may have some good food they can mooch if they work you right. In other situations, a woodland creature may be more direct in trying to use your provisions for their own enjoyment. Those are situations where the interference of God’s creatures could be a negative in your camping experience for your camp out.
In fact, some wild animals could pose real danger to your family if they are drawn to your camp site. In some mountain parks, bears roam free and may be drawn to your camp site if they think there are good things to eat there. For the most part, animals will stay away from your camp site. But some animals may become a problem that you should be mindful of including…
- Squirrels are pretty much everywhere. Mostly they will stay away but if they have become overly socialized, they may approach the camp to see what they can find. While usually not aggressive, you don’t want them too close because they may carry diseases or become too demanding of your food.
- Raccoons are even more crafty and often develop sophisticated ways to beg or find their ways into your food. They can open coolers and get into protected areas and they are often quite bold in approaching camp sites if they think they can get away with it.
- Deer are usually not that aggressive and if you see them near camp, they are beautiful creatures to watch. The key is not to interrupt their normal lives or get in the way of their goals. If you interrupt a deer family, the mother deer may feel threatened and defend her young. Deer are not pets and the children should show them proper respect.
- Moose or elk are similarly dangerous and should be given plenty of distance. They can charge if they feel threatened. As a rule, they will stay away from your camp site. If you get a good photo of a moose or elk, that is the best you should try for.
- Snakes can be a terrifying find in a camp site. Don’t camp near piles of brush or tall grass where snakes will make their homes so you don’t see a slimy visitor at sunset.
- Bears are obviously dangerous to humans. If you see one nearby, do not approach and do all you can to put distance between the bear and your family.
Wilderness camping should be done with care keeping in mind that woodland creatures can smell your food and will come around, probably after you have bunked down for the night. So the entire camping party should observe some rules of camp management to assure their safety from neighborhood wild life.
- All food should be stored in cars or locked up so the containers cannot be gotten to by wild life.
- No food at all in tents or left out in the camp ground to lure scavengers to try for a snack. Don’t be naive. A bear will come into a tent to get that sandwich and that is an experience nobody wants to go through.
- One way to secure food items is to double bag them in plastic trash bags, tie them shut then hoist them up into trees. If you suspend the food high enough off the ground, that will be a deterrent to bears and raccoons to try to get to that food.
- All garbage must be taken out of the camp site. Most state parks have locked dumpsters where you can dump that garbage and the rangers will come by and secure those dumpsters.
- Lock away even toiletry items such as toothpaste. In fact, when its time to brush your teeth, its best to step far out of camp so there are no toothpaste residue on the ground near the camp. Be careful about eating or using aromatic toothpaste before bed. If your breath is too interesting, a woodland creature may come calling.
Use these common sense precautions and you will have a camp site that can live in harmony with nature without becoming to fascinating to nature’s citizens. And by teaching the children well how they can secure the camp to keep nighttime visitors away, you are doing everything you need to do to assure a safe and enjoyable camp out for all.