Sunday, June 28, 2015

Staying Safe While Camping

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when camping.  Don’t be lulled into thinking that just because you’re in a tent, cabin, or are RV camping in a private campground or RV park a few miles out of town that you’re safe, and that the laws of your nature don’t apply to you!
Camping history is full of stories about bears getting into bird feeders, coolers, and tents.  These encounters are generally a young bear, newly kicked out of the den because mom now has a new cub, and who now has to fend for himself.  They quickly learn to associate campers with an easy meal.  The teenage equivalent of a McDonald’s drive-thru.
The food source can be campers who leave food on their campsite picnic table that can be right up under the awning of the RV, unburned food scraps in a fire pit, or forgetting to put the cooler away, a bag of garbage they failed to take to the dumpster before nightfall, bird feeders they have out, and even grease from a BBQ grill or dumped from a fryer.
These simple things can attract bears.  And the last thing you want is you, your children, spouse, or pets having a face to face meeting with a bruin.  While attacks by black bears are rare, they can happen and it’s important to remember that you’re in their territory.  They were here, in the woodlots of Pennsylvania, long before RVs and campers were. 
As their guest, we need to make sure we’re doing our part to not cause them the heartache of being trapped out and relocated.  It isn’t fair to the animals.      
So please follow these simple safety tips when you are camping to ensure your safety.
  1. Never, ever allow your children to take food in their tents.  If the children are sleeping in a tent, they need to eat at the picnic table, or in the RV.  Never, ever, never take food in the tent. 
  2. Never leave food out on your picnic table, especially overnight.  Put the cooler in the RV or trunk.  You become a McD’s dive thru, remember?  It’ll entice them to come right into your campsite for that easy meal.
  3. Never place food scraps in the campfire.  All food scraps need to go into the garbage bag and to the dumpster every evening.  Cooking oil from fryers needs to cool, and then go back in the bottles it came out of and placed in the dumpster.  Never dump oil in the campground.  
  4. Take the garbage to the dumpster each night before retiring.  Never leave garbage out overnight.  A bag of garbage will attract, skunks, raccoons, bears, opossums, dogs, etc. that can quickly turn a fun, family outing into a bad experience.  Not only will they make a mess, but they’ll be back, and they become ever more aggressive to get their meal.  That can place your family at risk of being bitten by a raccoon, skunk, bear, dog, etc.
  5. Never try to feed or entice bears or other critters.  While they may be cute to see at a distance, they aren’t cute if they bite you and you have to go through a series of very painful rabies shots. 
  6. If you see fresh bear skat while hiking, make sure you talk to your friends loudly or if you’re alone talk to the bears loudly or sing a song loudly, keep your head up, and be on the lookout for the bear.  If you encounter a bear, give it lots of room, and keep your distance.  Never run from one. Back away from the situation if you can.  And try to keep yourself positioned so you’re never between a sow and her cub.  That can be very dangerous.
  7. Don’t forget that you need to know how to identify snakes too.  You could encounter them while hiking, camping, fishing, etc.  Make sure, like bears, you watch where you’re walking, and know your venomous snakes from non-venomous snakes.  Never play with snakes.  Even a non-poisonous snake bite can be nasty and require medical attention.
  8. Make sure you know your surroundings and keep your pets leashed.  Small animals like cats and dogs can and do become prey for coyotes.    
  9. And last, but certainly not least, know your plants.  Teach your children the old adage “leaves of three, leave it be”.  Watch for and stay out of poison ivy, poison sumac, and other plants that can cause very uncomfortable skin rashes.       
The best way to have a safe and fun camping adventure it to remember that the outdoors can have hazards that can be difficult to navigate if you forget that you’re a guest in the great outdoors!  So have fun, but be smart and stay safe!

By Robyn Chilson