Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals in the Wild

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Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals in the Wild

Wildlife 101: Encountering Animals in the Wild

If you spend any amount of time camping in your RV, it is almost certain that you will eventually encounter wildlife. While this can be an awe-inspiring experience and a great photo op, it can also be quite dangerous. However, the danger does not come from the animal, rather from how the human handles the interaction with the animal.

Related Read: Breaking Down in a Heard of Buffalo

This is a little series that I put together because, as RVers, we will find ourselves face to face with wild animals at some point. I will include some general tips, as well as more specific information such as what to do when you encounter a bear while hiking, what to do if an animal gets in your RV, and basic first aid for an animal bite. I’ll even toss in a word or two on other animals like coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves. So, let’s get started.
Are Wild Animals a Threat to Humans?
This is a trick question. The short answer is, no, when left along, wild animals are usually not a threat to humans. The become a threat, though, when humans attempt to interact with them. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the numbers:
  • Mosquitoes rank number one as the most dangerous animal, responsible for around 725,000 human deaths per year (some estimates are higher – much higher).
  • Snakes come in third (after humans) with about 50,000 human deaths per year.
  • Wolves rank at number 14 with around 10 human death per year
  • Mountain lions cause about one human death per year.
  • Alligator attacks have been increasing in recent years, mostly due to human encroachment on their habitats. There are around three alligator related deaths per year.
  • Bears cause about one human death per year.
  • Bison attacks have been increasing over the past few years, but deaths related to bison attacks are still relatively low.
Wild Animal Viewing Safety Tips
RVing often gives us great opportunities for viewing wildlife in a more natural, personal way. It may be tempting to interact with a wild animal, especially if it is hurt or is a baby that seems to be abandoned. In a word, don’t. Let wild animals be wild animals; nature must take its course. Human intervention is rarely helpful and it could end with injury to the animal or human – or both.

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

These guidelines will help you protect the natural habitats of the animals in the area while conserving wildlife and respecting nature as well as others’ rights. They will also help keep you, your family, and your pets safe.
  • Do not try to approach any wild animal. Enjoy from a distance and watch for signs of agitation, aggression, or distress (stamping, huffing, flattened ears, teeth baring etc.) and quietly change direction.
  • Do not feed wild animals. They can lose their fear of humans and become aggressive toward people who don’t feed them or when the person feeding them stops. It also keeps the animal from learning how to adequately forage so it cannot feed itself and can starve.
  • Never tease, harass, or chase wild animals. You can cause them to deplete vital energy resources that they need for survival. They can also turn on you, causing injury.
  • Never pick up sick or orphaned wild animals. It is actually very rare for a wild animal to abandon its young. More often than not, the adult is nearby, waiting for the humans to leave so they can return to their baby and care for it. If an animal seems to be injured or sick, seems to be tame or unafraid of humans, or is just behaving in a strange manner, leave it alone. Wildlife can carry diseases, like rabies, that affect humans.
  • Don’t mess up a viewing experience for someone else. If you are on a trail and encounter wildlife, view, take your photos, and quietly move away. That way the next person who comes along can enjoy the wildlife too.
Coming up: Wild animals at your campsite, when animals get aggressive, and wild animals in your RV. Fun stuff!
Have you ever had encounters with wild animals while on the trail?

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Stephanie A. Mayberry


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

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