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Wildlife Interactions

Why do wildlife interactions occur on campsites? What can be done to help discourage wildlife interaction?

Camping can be a great way to experience nature in its purest form. However, experiencing a natural environment also means having to share that environment with the wildlife living there. Conflicts between humans and wildlife abound at campgrounds, most commonly when animals are attracted to campsites. However, there are simple ways to help keep animals away from campsites.

Be sure to keep a clean camp. Dirty dishes and garbage may attract bears to a campsite. Dishes should be washed immediately after use, and the water used to clean the dishes should be dumped away from camp and about 200 feet away from any natural water sources. Deposit all garbage in wildlife-resistant trash containers, to be taken when leaving the campsite.

Keep the campsite as odorless as possible. Most animals, especially black bears, have an excellent sense of smell and are attracted by food odors. Therefore, store all extra food and any odorous toiletry products (deodorants, toothpastes, lotions, soaps) in closed, hard-sided vehicle or special animal-resistant containers, which should be labeled as such upon purchase. Store pet food in a similar manner. Many animals (raccoons in particular) have an uncanny ability of opening typically used containers, so ice chests and trash receptacles should not be used unless necessary. Food and toiletries can also be stored in durable bags suspended from trees, so animals cannot reach them (about 10 feet high). Also, do not sleep in the same clothes worn to handle game or to cook. To an animal, you might smell like dinner!
Many wild animals may seem harmless, such as deer, chipmunks, or raccoons, but remember that even small, "harmless looking" animals have teeth, sharp hooves or claws, and antlers that can potentially hurt humans. Also, wild animals may carry diseases such as rabies or West Nile virus. Insects can also carry diseases, as well as inflict painful stings or itchy bites, so bedding, clothing, and footwear should be checked carefully before using. Also, be aware of snakes when gathering firewood or packing up camping equipment.
Lastly, don't feed wildlife. Human food does not contain the nutrients that wild animals need and can potentially make them sick. Giving food to animals may also make them more dependent on offerings, thus disturbing their natural gathering habits. Handing out food may make animals look friendlier, but they are just as dangerous and possibly more aggressive, and if an animal bites a person, park officials often have no choice but to kill the animal. In the end, "helping" an animal by feeding it may cause it more harm than good.

To read more about wildlife interactions, please visit the following sites:
http://experienceidaho.com/Wildlifesafety.html
http://www.floridaconservation.org/viewing/withyourchild/polite.htm