How to Keep Animals Out of Your Campsite

April 23, 2015 by | Be the first to comment »

Few things in life can beat the feeling you get when you’ve finished setting up at your favorite campsite and are ready to enjoy a weekend in the outdoors. But all it takes to see a potentially awesome camping trip go wrong, however, is failing to take the necessary steps to avoid getting a visit from a large (and hungry) unwanted guest.

Consider what happened to Washington resident Rob Holmes during a 2010 fly fishing excursion in Montana. A black bear wandered into his campsite bit him in the head as Holmes was sleeping inside a tent. It was later discovered that the bear had found food items that campers in the neighboring site had left out, which drew the bear to the area. Luckily, Holmes survived theencounter. After shouting and scaring off the animal, Holmes drove to a hospital, where surgeons re-attached his ear.Wildlife experts say bear attacks are uncommon, but bears will enter campsites to find food or because they are curious. In Holmes’ case, the bear attack came as the result of careless neighbors, but the incident emphasizes why it’s important for everyone to do all they can to prevent these kinds of encounters.

Here are a few things to consider when heading out for your next trip:

Quell the smells

All kinds of animals, including bears, rely on their senses of smell to locate food. Keeping your campsite meticulously clean and free of any food smells is one way to avoid a bear visit. Secure all uneaten food into tightly sealed containers, or plastic bags that prevent the emission of odors, such as those available through vendors like Loksak. Wash your hands before packing everything away; even slightly lingering scents can attract animals. In addition to food odors, animals are also drawn to artificial scents from deodorant, lotions or soaps, so opt for unscented varieties. If you use scented deodorant, apply it in the morning so the smell has time to diminish before bed time, and store it away from camp in an odor-proof container.

Out of sight, out of mind

If a bear finds a meal inside a can or cooler on one occasion, the animal will look for similar-looking containers expecting to find food again in the future. Hide all food-storage containers in a spot away from camp, and never inside tents or other areas intended for human use.

Bears will climb for a meal

Many park authorities recommend hanging food from tree branches. This suggestion is not intended to prevent animals from stealing the food, but rather, as a way to put a safe distance between people and the object of a hungry animal’s desire. Critters capable of climbing, like bears, can scale a tree without any trouble – it only takes a baby bear about 10 seconds to climb 70 feet. Another alternative is to pack food inside a water- resistant and odor-proof receptacle, such as a bear cannister, and hide the entire supply in the woods.

Be smart about trash disposal

If you spill food or leave crumbs behind after eating, clean the mess up immediately. Dispose all food waste in a receptacle kept at least 200 feet away from the campsite. When you leave, check with a park authority to see if you’re allowed to burn discarded food in the campfire. If you must carry the food waste out with the rest of the trash, seal it in odor-proof containers.

Bearing arms

In the course of one July 2010 night at Yellowstone National Park, three people were attacked by a grizzly bear. One of the victims died. The attacks took place despite the fact that the campers and their neighbors maintained clean campsites, which is why it’s good to know how to protect yourself from an approaching bear. Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist Erik Wenum advises campers to carry bear spray, a capsaicin-based compound that sends a bear into a violent fit of coughing and sneezing as it enters the cloud of the spray, which temporarily stops the animal in its tracks. Personally, I prefer a 44 magnum!

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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