Human encounters with wildlife increase in the spring as outdoor recreation becomes increasingly popular, bears emerge from their den, and wildlife species bear young.
Most regions of the U.S. and Canada are home to an abundance of wildlife. It can be exciting to see wildlife, but remember to enjoy wildlife with respect and caution and observe from a safe distance.
It’s important to be Wildlife Aware—be informed about bears and other wildlife and what to do when you come into contact with them.
Always give wild animals a clear escape route. Do not approach or crowd wildlife; doing so could make the animal stressed and unpredictable.
Many people enjoy feeding wildlife because it allows them to have close contact or because they believe they are helping the animals.
While seeing wild animals up close can be enjoyable, providing wild animals with a human‐supplied food source nearly always leads to problems for both the animals and humans. Feeding can create unintended conflicts with humans. Wild animals that are used to being fed by humans commonly lose their fear of people. Animals that are unafraid of people will approach them for food, and are sometimes mistaken as rabid, aggressive, or mean, then killed for that behavior. An instinctive wariness of people is important to a wild animal’s survival.
Be Wildlife Aware—and camp responsibly
Sloppy campers and hikers don’t just endanger themselves, but also future visitors.
If an animal can’t smell your food, it won’t get your food. Keep a clean campsite. Pick up,
seal, and pack out every scrap of uneaten food.
If an animal can’t see your food, it won’t get your food. Once an animal finds food in a pack, box, or can, it will seek out similar containers with hopes of securing a easy meal.
If a wild animal receives a food reward from a human source, it can become food-conditioned. This behavior has resulted in the removal or death of many wild animals, and has also increased the risk of human injury.
Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife. Do not leave food out to deliberately attract bears or other animals. It is great to see wildlife but we should not be luring them to our camp or picnic sites by leaving treats.
Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears. Store food in air-tight containers and store in your RV or car trunk.
Keep your campsite clean. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite.
Make garbage a priority. Always clean up spilled food or leftover food particles; strain all wash water and distribute it at least 200 feet from camp.
In terms of trash, pack out everything you pack in. Make sure the garbage is sealed in an odor-proof bag or container. Never throw leftover food down park toilets or box latrines.
And obey all closures and warnings.
Be Wildlife Aware—the rule about Wildlife is their unpredictability
Many species, such as white-tailed deer, do not constantly stay with their young and only return to feed them. While a fawn might look abandoned and alone, it is waiting for the female to return. A fawn is well-equipped to protect itself. By the time it is 5 days old it can outrun a human, and within a few weeks of birth, can escape most predators.
The doe will return to the fawn several times a day to nurse and clean it, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to seek food.
For other species, the parent may return and become aggressive in an attempt to defend its young.
Chipmunks, squirrels and other rodents are usually a bigger nuisance than bears. Fortunately, the rules that work to help deter bears work for these animals, too.
Just because a squirrel doesn’t pose a threat to your life doesn’t mean you should forget about animal-proofing techniques when you’re not camping in bear country.
When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?