Some of our most memorable camping experiences have been the unexpected sighting of a wild animal: a black bear scurrying away from the trail or a tiny Key deer wandering through our camp.
But such sightings can’t be predicted, nor should they ever be encouraged. They are a happy bit of serendipity that you just have to wait for. That said, there are public lands where you are likely to see animals, particularly in the West. For instance, you can see free-roaming bison herds in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Henry Mountains in Utah, and Custer State Park in South Dakota - one of the largest bison herds in the world.
Walk quietly in any woods, and you’re likely to see a white-tailed deer darting across the trail or leaping gracefully through the woods. As tempting as it is to get closer to that herd of elk or bison or to try to pet a tame deer, we need to observe wildlife from afar.
Observe from a Distance
Teach children early on to observe through quiet observation and to never approach, try to touch, or feed wildlife. As stated elsewhere in this book, animals that become habituated to humans eventually become aggressive and may have to be euthanized.
BEWARE OF DANGER
These are dangerous and sometimes unpredictable animals, so be wary if you see them. Humans have very few predators, and nearly all wild animals you’ll encounter in North America would just as soon avoid you.
There are some exceptions, however. In some parts of the country, grizzly bears, alligators and mountain lions are valid fears since they are aggressive animals and their attacks have been fatal. The danger becomes more pronounced in areas where human population centers are expanding into formerly wild territory.
As stated previously, whenever a wild animal becomes habituated to human contact or learns to associate humans with food or trash, there is potential for unpleasant encounters.
However, don’t let irrational fears keep you out of the woods or the water. There are specific recommended steps you can take to avoid them.
Below are some of the more dangerous North American animals, how to identify them, and how to avoid them. If you encounter an aggressive animal, report it to authorities. It may need to be relocated or euthanized to protect other campers and hikers.
Important note about pets and wild animals:
Always keep your pet on a leash so that it doesn’t chase wildlife or get into a fight with a potentially dangerous animal. At one time or another, most dogs get a mouthful of porcupine quills, which will require a trip to the vet to have them removed under anesthesia. Although skunks are not dangerous, when a dog gets sprayed, it can certainly ruin a camping trip.
From the book Knack Car Camping for Everyone by Mary and Bill Burnham Copyright (c) 2009 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC Used by permission of FalconGuide. Visit Falcon.com