Hiking and camping can let you experience nature in a way you’d never be able to otherwise. You can see plants and animals in their natural habitat, but being in the wild also puts you at risk for potentially harmful encounters. What can do you do to prevent animal attacks while you’re hiking and camping?
Know What Animals You Might Encounter
Before you head out into the wilderness, figure out what kind of animals you might encounter in your chosen hiking or camping spot. It will vary depending on where you are in the world and what time of year it is. You could run into a bear in the Appalachians during the spring or summer, but not see a single one in the same area during the colder months when they’re hibernating.
This research will also teach you how to handle an animal encounter. Should you make a lot of noise while you hike, or should you try to stay quiet? You’re not going to see a lion or tiger in North America, but bears and mountain lions are definitely a possibility. Make sure you’re aware of what animals you could run into and what to do if you encounter them.
Don’t Approach Animals in the Wild
This might seem like common sense, but people pop up in the news every single year because they tried to take a selfie with a wild animal.
News flash: Don’t do that. Don’t approach wild animals if you encounter them during your hiking or camping trip. You can observe them from afar and take pictures, and you can enjoy the amazing experience of being able to see these creatures in their natural habitats. Don’t, however, try to approach them or get them to come to you by feeding them.
Keep Your Food Supplies Secure
While you will want to make sure you have food to eat during your trip, leaving it unsecured will attract animals into your campsite. Not only is this dangerous for you, but it can also put them at risk, too. They’ll get used to being fed — even if it’s not intentional — and they’ll start seeking other campsites. If they hurt a camper, they’ll have to be relocated or put down.
Instead of putting yourself and the animals at risk, keep your food supplies secure. Put them in a hard plastic cooler and secure it with a padlock so they can’t accidentally knock it open. Make sure you keep the key on you, though. The goal is to keep animals out of your food, not to keep you out of it.
Choose Your Camping Spot Wisely
If you’ve found a clear spot on your trail that looks like it might be suitable for camping, be mindful of the area around you. Is it a spot that’s been cleared out by campers in the past, or does it look more natural? Game trails — the areas where animals travel through the forest — are prime hunting spots for predators because it’s easier for their prey to follow them than to break new paths through the underbrush.
Don’t, for the love of whatever you deem holy, set up your camp on a game trail. You’re going to have animals stomping through your campsite all night, and you increase your risk of triggering an attack.
Don’t let this discourage you from heading out into the wilderness the next time you plan a hike or a camping trip. Respect any animals that you encounter, and they will do so in return.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington