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Raccoons inspecting food cooler
Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals Around Your Campsite

Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals Around Your Campsite

Most settings where you park your RV will include at least a few different forms of wildlife. Our current campground is in a somewhat urban area (we are in a little oasis in the middle of the city) and we still have an abundance of squirrels, raccoons, opossums, foxes, birds, hawks, and bats. They have lived among humans for so long, they do get a little close sometimes.

Related Read: Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals in the Wild

Don’t Feed the Animals!

My husband was in pest control for more than 25 years and was licensed in nuisance wildlife removal. He said that the number one reason wild animals approach human dwellings is because they are looking for food – and more often than not, humans have been feeding them so they associate humans with food sources. This can be very dangerous for the animal as well as for the humans.

Related Read: Surviving Encounters with Dangerous Wild Animals (Part 1)

Once he was called out to a business that said they had a “racoon problem.” When he got there, the raccoon was trapped in an empty dumpster. He noted that there was no food in the dumpster, which was strange and not typical raccoon behavior. Upon questioning the people at the business, he learned (what he already suspected) that they had been feeding the animal. Over time, it lost its fear of humans and kept getting closer and closer until the people started getting scared. That is when they trapped it in the dumpster.

He caught the raccoon and relocated it, but the story most likely did not have a happy ending. Most wild animals that are relocated do not survive. They don’t know where to find food, water, or shelter and they can be attacked by other animals that view them as a threat (animals are often very territorial). What’s more, it is very likely that the raccoon got so accustomed to being fed by humans, it lost or never developed adequate foraging skills for survival. In short, the raccoon probably died by starvation, exposure, or animal attack.

Keep your Campsite Animal Friendly

Most animals approach campsites looking for food. Some may be curious, but most want food. Keep your campsite animal friendly by securing all of your food in plastic containers and keep it out of reach. Some people hang the containers from a limb so even if the animal climbs the tree, they likely cannot scale a rope to get to the food. If you are sleeping in a tent, do not keep your food in your tent – not even a granola bar - nothing. A hungry bear will try to get in your tent to get food and, well, in a bear verses tent battle, my money is on the bear
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Prepare and cook your food 200 feet or more from where you set up your tent or where you are camping. It might be fun to sit under the awning and barbeque, but if you are in an area with bears or other hungry wildlife, you might as well hang a welcome sign over your door.

Related Read: Campfire Construction 101

Properly store and dispose of your garbage. Many campsites have dumpsters on the property – use them. We keep a metal garbage can with a fitted lid next to our camper. It is secure so we can put a couple of filled garbage bags in it. When it reaches capacity, one of us drives it to the dumpster and we empty it. Always remember to close the dumpster lids.

Never leave bags of garbage outside. However, some places don’t have a disposal area. In that case, double bag and use the heavy duty garbage bags.
Some campers use dryer sheets to help mask food odors. They place them around their tent, food storage, and other areas within the campsite. Many claim this is an effective repellant but I haven’t done it so I can’t vouch for it.

This is more applicable if you are sleeping in a tent, but you should change clothes after you cook. Don’t sleep in the clothes you cook in and don’t keep them in your tent.
Keep a flashlight with you. Sometimes just suddenly shining a bright light on animals can spook them into leaving your campsite.

Treat animals with respect. Never tease or try to play with them. This family in British Columbia learned this the hard way when a sea lion dragged a little girl into the water. They had been feeding the wild animal and teasing it. In the video, you can see it becomes visibly agitated, then it strikes. The girl was OK, but it was a terrifying experience and many were quick to blame the animal – at first anyway.

Bottom line, never try to interact with a wild animal.

Do you have a close encounters wildlife story? We’d love to hear it!

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Stephanie A. Mayberry

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Stephanie A. Mayberry

Stephanie A. Mayberry escaped the hustle and bustle of city life in Washington, D.C. where she worked as an analyst, FOIA officer, and technical writer for the U.S. federal government to pursue her first love, freelance writing, full time. She has been a writer, author, public speaker, and photographer for more than 25 years; now she, her husband, and little dog Gizmo enjoy the laid back lifestyle as RV full-timers going wherever the wind takes them. Learn more about Stephanie at stephaniemayberry.com