5 Tips for Interacting with Wildlife while Camping
Some of the most magical things about spending time outdoors is being able to see wildlife. I can’t help but smile when I think of the time I saw a moose and its calf wading through the far end of a stream. Or that time I saw a golden eagle elevate itself ever higher on an unseen current of air. Or seeing a herd of skittish antelope scatter with seemingly no provocation.
1 Keep a Wildlife Diary
I know what you’re thinking, “Nerd!” But hear me out.
We often think of wildlife sightings as being completely by chance. We are either graced by the event or we aren’t. The reality is that wildlife have quite predictable patterns. Deer trace paths in the side of a hill. Mountain lions are quite territorial. And, any fisherman knows that looking for rainbow trout at noon is a waste of time.
Keep a diary of what kinds of animals you’ve seen, where you were, what time it was, what the conditions were, and what the surroundings looked like. Before long, you will start to see the patterns. You will be surprised at how quickly you walk into a clearing and freeze, just sensing that the conditions are right for a wildlife experience.
2 Keep Quiet
You aren’t likely to bother the downstairs neighbors when you camp. You could yell and beat your walking stick against the bushes as you hike. You could sing off tune as you swing wildly in your hammock. You could do all of those things, but you will guarantee that you will not experience nature to its fullest.
It’s not about sneaking up on the animals. They are shrewder than you think. They will mostly do their best to keep their distance. But, if you exercise a bit of repose, you would be surprised how many animals you will see in your travels.
3 Keep your food away from your tent
Getting close to nature shouldn’t mean courting disaster. You will still want to keep the natural world out of your living space. Don’t eat in your tent. Keep your food and “smellables” away from your sleeping bags, hammocks, tents, and packs. Animals are built to hunt that stuff out and get themselves just as fat as they can before winter.
It may seem cute that a squirrel found his way to the granola bar you put in your tent for a midnight snack. That is, until you found that it left its mark right there on your sleeping bag. (I’ve seen it happen.)
4 Keep your distance
Don’t try and catch a squirrel. Don’t see how close to a bear you can get, even if it’s a docile black bear. Don’t taunt that coral snake. And don’t think that elk won’t come right at you with that magnificent rack of his. The animals are wild.
Aside from the obvious danger to your own health and safety, keep in mind what would happen to these animals if every hiker or camper tried to make friends with the animals. They would soon cease to fear man. That would jeopardize their safety and ours.
5 Know your Area
A little research about the animals you are likely to experience in the area you are camping can go a long way. There is something much more enjoyable about seeing a squirrel and not having to wonder whether it is a pine squirrel or a tree squirrel. Is that a prairie dog or a marmot? Is that an indian palm squirrel or a chipmunk?
A modicum of research can go a long way in making your wildlife sightings far more rewarding. You know, though, that’s probably a good life lesson about just about anything.