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Old 10-19-11, 10:16 PM   #1
tombomb
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Co-Existing with Critters

Co-Existing with Critters (the Wild Kind)

If you have experience camping in a tent while touring, tell me your best practices managing encounters with local wild species. Ill be doing the SOUTHERN TIER SOLO E>W later this month and will use my small tent/sleeping bag for overnight accommodations. I want to minimize my chance of encounters with ALLIGATORS, BEARS, BIG CATS, BOARS, SNAKES, SCORPIONS, ETC. Not allowing food in your tent, and bagging food & hanging it high, are some good practices. (PS I will be using WarmShowers locations whenever I can). I need your stories/advice about SAFE TENTING amidst the native feral fauna inhabitants, please. Thanks and have a Safe Ride!
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Old 10-19-11, 10:47 PM   #2
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you got it, no food in the tent etc. Basic common sense.

and or you can read all the comments on bringing a gun along with you la American in another thread, so you can just shoot whatever varmit comes close.
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Old 10-19-11, 10:57 PM   #3
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That's quite the laundry list of animals to run into, and each requires their own precautions. Snakes and scorpions, just have bug netting and don't worry. Be careful where you step in camp, and that should be enough. I think scorpions glow under UV light, so if you really want to be paranoid, you can get a simple UV LED and check.

Bears, standard practice is to distribute your camp; I grew up camping in Yosemite, where the rules are you don't sleep where you cook, you don't store your food where you sleep, and you don't cook where you store your food. The three should be distributed 100 feet from each other. The food should, of course, be stored in a bear proof container, bears are clever enough that bear bags might not work. As long as the bag is hung a distance away from the camp, you are in very little danger, but the bear could eat your food. The bear proof canisters that some places require don't necessarily help you keep your food any better than a well hung bear bag, but it will stop the bear from getting your food at any cost. I've heard stories of bear canisters being found miles down the trail, and even more of them just vanishing, but none of them being cracked open. While on the macro scale this does lower the risk of humans being associated with food, it does very little to you personally.

If you are really paranoid about bears, you can always practice a total isolation policy, and have a separate set of clothing to eat in and to sleep in.

Boars have never bothered me, although I have had them sneaking around my camp at night looking for scraps.

Big cats, and Alligators, you are on your own, no experience.
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Old 10-20-11, 04:55 AM   #4
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There really isn't much to worry about or do wrt critters beyond common sense and normal policy regarding food and scented products. Scented products should be treated like food wrt hanging, putting in bear box, or what ever. Also remember to take about the same precautions in raccoon country as bear country. Those little bandits can be a real pain.
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Old 10-20-11, 04:55 AM   #5
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99.9% of all negative encounters with critters have something to do with them wanting your food. If you follow the basic rules of food storage at night you'll have very little problems with any critters.

Bears, coons, wild pigs, skunks, squirrels, birds, etc., will make a mess of your camp if you have food laying around or if there are a lot of food smells in your camp.

Big cats, gators, coyotes, deer, bison, wolves, etc., might keep you up at night but probably won't come near you. You would have to present a significant threat for them to give you any trouble. Note: Coyotes are the rudest, loudest, most irritating little SOBs in the world at night, but they are not aggressive towards humans.

Snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc., you just have to keep an eye out for. Shake out clothing that's been left outside.
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Old 10-20-11, 05:03 AM   #6
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Ants and other insects that crawl into an ear can be washed out by tilting your head, pouring water in and tilting head in other direction... you'll know there's an ant in there by the funny scratching sound in your head!
Doesn't occur that often in my experience and I only sleep in a tent when it's raining...

A Bear Vault keeps all critters out. I have a small one which doubles great as a stool in camp... especially good when the ground is wet... Great for washing clothes in as well

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Old 10-20-11, 05:34 AM   #7
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A note on bear canisters... They are great where required, but pretty heavy (my Garcia weighs 2 pounds 12 ounces). Most places in the US where you will be likely to camp while bike touring will either have bear lockers, or not have bears that are skilled at defeating schemes for properly hanging food.

I have not yet done the Southern Tier (I plan to early 2012), but on the Trans America, in the Sierras, on the west coast, and along the Santa Fe trail I never wished I was carrying my bear canister. I prefer to travel light, but for those who don't mind carrying a lot of heavy stuff a bear canister does double as a stool.
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Old 10-20-11, 06:29 AM   #8
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Going to take the high ground and mostly ignore djb's little jab.
Food is the big thing. Anything you can do to keep food smells to a minimum. Make sure you do any dishes right after eating. Any scraps should be burned or put in the trash.
I usually bring prepackaged goods, so there's less of a chance of critters being interested.
Make sure you triple check your tent site for fire ant nests!
Hopefully you have an actual tent with tight zippers and such. Snakes in those parts are awful friendly, and will cuddle up to you for heat.
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Old 10-20-11, 06:50 AM   #9
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Snakes in those parts are awful friendly, and will cuddle up to you for heat.
Is this really true? I've heard the "myth" of snakes crawling into your sleeping bag for warmth, of course, but never about it actually happening to anyone? *curious if this is a "rural legend" or a real potential danger*

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Old 10-20-11, 07:17 AM   #10
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Going to take the high ground and mostly ignore djb's little jab.
yeah, sorry, could resist it.

all very good points btw, especially one like doing dishes right away and burning stuff, things that do make a big big difference. Only having Canadian experience, cant say anything regarding alligators etc but it does make sense with all critters, food smells and garbage, leftovers etc are the main issue.
On that note, dont ever cook bacon or whatever under your vestibule, as your now bacon-flavored-tent will be rather attractive...
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Old 10-20-11, 07:41 AM   #11
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i will echo most of what everyone has said in here so far. the big triangle of cooking/camping/food storage, bigger in grizz country.

a couple of tips: 1) knock out your shoes in the morning before putting them on if they were outside of your tent.
slugs and scorpions like insides of shoes.

and 2) hang your food bag line before it gets dark. pick the tree and the limb, spend time hanging it up before dark, have it ready to hang your stuff when you're ready to retire.

I also suggest rigging the line so you can hang the food just a few feet off the ground while you are cooking or at your tent away from the food bag before hauling it high up into the trees for the night- it keeps the common campsite critters- raccoons, camp mice, fox and other varmits - from digging into the rest of your food while you're cooking dinner, and still leaves your stuff at person height easy to access for tea, desserts, your lip balm and toothpaste.

that only doesn't work in bear country. you can find bears just walking around yellowstone campgrounds at dusk......

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Old 10-20-11, 07:46 AM   #12
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I used the BearVault BV500 on my tour through British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. The area had a substantial numbers of bears. I found it to be very functional and a lot easier than hanging food every night. Additionally, in the tundra, hanging would have been impossible. Protecting food from the small critters is a BIG bonus. As the others have said it's definitely heavy at 2.5 lbs.

I also did the Southern Tier on a separate tour before purchasing the bear canister. I hung my food every night. Although I did not encounter any bears, there were nuisance racoons. Hanging did keep my food safe.

The bear canister convenience is a big plus. If you're not interested in hanging food every night I would recommend it. Personally, I would only use the canister in bear country because of the added weight.

NOTE: LHT loaded with bear canister

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Old 10-20-11, 07:49 AM   #13
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yeah, sorry, could resist it.

all very good points btw, especially one like doing dishes right away and burning stuff, things that do make a big big difference. Only having Canadian experience, cant say anything regarding alligators etc but it does make sense with all critters, food smells and garbage, leftovers etc are the main issue.
On that note, dont ever cook bacon or whatever under your vestibule, as your now bacon-flavored-tent will be rather attractive...
Hell, I might go after that tent myself!

Brad
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Old 10-20-11, 07:51 AM   #14
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On my last trip I discovered that spiders (at least this particular spider) have reflective eyes! After loading everything on the bike and only having to break down and pack my tent, I scanned (it was still dark out) inside with my flashlight. I found something reflecting back at me in a far corner. I crawled back for a look and found a good sized spider staring back at me! That was a creepy discovery! I managed to scoot his butt (and eight legs) out of my home, thanking him for his company for the night.

I'm ultra careful about keeping my tent zipped up, but it was damned hot on this trip. I kept the door open about halfway to allow just that little bit more of a breeze in...I guess this critter saw the weakness in my armor and took advantage.
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Old 10-20-11, 08:02 AM   #15
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tombomb, The closer you get to the Gulf Coast, the more likely you'll encounter alligators, which can even be found in metro areas. Texas has had a real issue with wild pigs this year because of the drought. Snakes are always a concern, as are scorpions.

Basic common sense and basic camping knowledge, primarily WRT food storage and campsite hygene goes a long way.

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Old 10-20-11, 08:41 AM   #16
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you should come tour in ireland lol
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Old 10-20-11, 10:16 AM   #17
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you should come tour in ireland lol
yea, but you really have to keeps the zippers shut all the time because if not, instead of spiders, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a leprechaun or two snuggled up under your sleeping bag.

Its a known fact.
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Old 10-20-11, 10:31 AM   #18
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I'm going to quote Ray Jardine on two points in a sec. But that is a point in itself, he has 25000 miles of hiking experience, so he is an "expert", but I hunt, live on property with bears, wolves, etc... And the main point is I have to quote Jardine, because these animals never mess with me, and for the most part are invisible. Side story to that though, is I saw more animals in a week in Florida, including more dangerous ones, than in 52 years in Canada....

Jardines claims the snake sleeping with you is a myth, has never happened to him, and until his recent bout with lime disease, he has pretty much always slept under a tarp where animals have open access to him. He claims snakes are for the most part working at night, not looking for somewhere to sleep, and he further claims they would see you as a large hot spot/potential predator, so seeing you as a warm blob, far from seeming attractive would be like you have some special capacity to identify 500 pound gorillas, next move is to try to sleep with one? Jardine currently lives in Arizona, and has worked extensively in California.

Jardine claims bears have only been a problem for him in the Smokies where they behave like advanced racoons. They will dash away with your pack if you put it down. In the main, and this is my experience, he never has problems with them because he does not sleep at established camps. He says that is the only place where they are habituated to humans (or at least that and any similar place, but not the general outdoors). Obviously at a set campground, there will be a bear policy, so they will tell you what to do, and if you are stealthing, you probably don't have to worry. Jardine sleeps with his pack of food next to him, even in bear country. He uses a tarp which he believes is better because you can see what is going on, more easily withdraw, and if a bear wants to grab your food in some freak encounter, he can just take it out from under the edge of the tarp. While I use a tent, I have had the same experience. Racoons will go after packs outside the tent, so I bring it in. Bears show up only once in a blue moon. The way bears (blacks) are hunted is by baiting them. They can be stalked, but for the most part in any kind of cover, the only way you will get them into shooting distance is with bait. You can even bait them on a single go with smudges of bacon fat, and this is in the wilds, no habituated bears. So cooking and food are your main deal. If you want to cook bacon, probably a good idea to stop for dinner before you camp. Even though the US is full of blackies, for the most part hunters will still travel to the north woods, Canada, or the west to get into trophy situations.

Final Jardine thing is the lyme disease. Ticks are probably one of the most actually dangerous pests. They carry an increasing variety of novel, and fatal diseases. Hard to diagnose. I would put most of my concern in that kind of area.

Alligator is the only animal that has actually attacked me (other than dogs, which are my biggest problem by far), and that was in the desert backcountry of Myaka park. They are scary to me, because in their mind we are diffidently on the menu. My experience aside, I would 1) watch out coming down to water. This is their ambush point, but more important it is probably the only place where they would seriously grab you, kill you, and stuff you under a log (or have that in mind). I assume the alligator I ran into just wanted to bite and run. 2) In places where they are common, they are everywhere. You will catch yourself seeing them really close in, when you first missed them. Generally they aren't a problem, but there are so many of them in some places it would be easy to wander onto one of them.

While encounters with animals are rare, what should you do when you make an encounter: 1) don't behave like a tourist, all large animals are dangerous, someone was recently run through by a goat. Don't close the distance with a camera, frontally, that is aggressive behaviour. Either sneak and flank, which is predatory, or stay well back. 2) The marine maxim of being polite and professional with everyone you meet while formulating a plan to kill them should it be required, is good advice. Most of these species are on the human kill list. Most of them wouldn't give an aggressive 40 pound dog pause. Many of these animals are killed in the hundreds of thousands by archers every year. That is the power of a pointy stick and a strong right arm.
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Old 10-20-11, 11:29 AM   #19
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I gotta agree with Jardine. 50 years in the backcountry taught me to never hang my food. That just attracts critters. A proper hang is 10' from any tree and 15' above ground. You find someplace like that, you let me know. I never have. The other thing that hanging food does, besides create a nice pinata for bears, is it makes lines for mice, raccoons, chipmunks, and every other small animal to run down to your pack where they will love to chew holes in it, or just chew the line through if they have any experience.

So what you do, is you have an ordinary garbage bag with you. You put everything that's food or might smell like food, or might attract anything, in that bag. Twist up the neck, and put that bag into your sleeping bag stuff sack and seal that up. Put the bag next to you, under your tarp, in your tent, whatever. Do not leave out snacks for eating in the night. You, like me for the past 30 years, will never have a problem with night critters again.

If I'm in an established campground with metal bear hanging poles or bear boxes, I use them. If I'm in Yosemite, I use the mandated bear containers. Otherwise, I do as I said above.

I've found that if I take all food out of my pack or panniers, critters don't bother it even though it's outside the tent, though I usually have a large enough tent and small enough gear that I can bring it all in. I still empty out all the food and do as I said above.

Your main danger is losing the usability of your gear by having holes chewed in it or having it torn up.
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Old 10-20-11, 11:57 AM   #20
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Hi all,Thanks Very Much for the posts. I'm Very Much Interested in Your Opinions.

I traveledSolo w/tent modified Northern Tier 1982 3300 Mi., Boston, MA to Ocean Shores,WA. I didn't cook then & I won't now. Shredded Wheat Cereal is my main staple.

In '82 it wasme, sleeping bag, 4 panniers and my bike (w/quick release front wheel removed);I’m travelling the same way on this upcoming trip. I’d hung food bag at night in Bear Country(mainly Upper Peninsula, MI & Rockies - East Glacier, MT to Coeur d'Alene,ID).

The 1982 photois me in West Glacier w/my ride at the time, a Japanese-made Steel Raleigh10-speed Grand Sport model. My ride now is a Co-Motion Nor’Wester Tour (but I’musing the same 29-year old pannier set!)

I leave fromJacksonville Beach, FL on the 27th. Keep those comments coming,folks, and Have a Safe Ride!
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Old 10-20-11, 12:39 PM   #21
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No hanging food for me either.If a bear is hungry,I'm food!

Food/panniers go in the tent with me to keep the critters from chewing holes in my stuff.

If I'm where they have lockers or they make me use a canister,I use them.

If I was REALLY worried,soap,food,anything edible/smelly,would be 100 yards from my camp.

I'm more concerned about pack rats,racoons,things like that,then alligators,bears and Bigfoot.
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Old 10-20-11, 01:21 PM   #22
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djb they have all left gone A wall since this recession hit.
this thread really sounds MAD from this side of the pond lol ,man i would hate to think a bear would come calling in the dark of the night to see if i was home.
last year i was painting a house here in tow n, i had two lads with me one of then went into a room to get started painting when he open the door there was this snake poking his head through the top of one of those glass cases,eeek i never see n anyone move so fast in all my life.of course the home owner forgot to tell us he had a pet snake.lol
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Old 10-20-11, 05:25 PM   #23
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Is this really true? I've heard the "myth" of snakes crawling into your sleeping bag for warmth, of course, but never about it actually happening to anyone? *curious if this is a "rural legend" or a real potential danger*
In the Army, we would sleep in our hasty positions sometimes. These were just little man-shaped holes that you could lie in. I had one snake in Louisiana crawl in with me and settle down on my right leg for a while. I don't know if he was cold, lonely, or just bored, but we hung out for a little bit. I just sat REAL still till he left, then jumped up and stood behind a tree the rest of the night.
I've also had PLENTY of frogs, toads, spiders, and other critters nestle up with me on hiking trips and such. So, even when going as light as possible, I always bring a tent that I can zip closed.
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Old 10-20-11, 07:52 PM   #24
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[FONT=Arial][SIZE=3]
...The 1982 photois me in West Glacier w/my ride at the time, a Japanese-made Steel Raleigh10-speed Grand Sport model. My ride now is a Co-Motion Nor’Wester Tour (but I’musing the same 29-year old pannier set!)

I leave fromJacksonville Beach, FL on the 27th. Keep those comments coming,folks, and Have a Safe Ride!
How about that ball cap!? Nice touch! Boston Rob?
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Old 10-20-11, 07:59 PM   #25
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carbon--oooooo here we go again with the "leave the food out hanging" or "bring it in the tent with you" ...."debate"

I put quotation marks on "debate" because, as I have responded a while back on another thread like this, I disagree with you 100%.

You have your point of view, but I do urge people reading this who do not have outdoor experience, to please look into all and any hiking, canoeing, whatever club, groups, etc recommendations on food management in critter country (particularly bears) which does NOT recommend this practice.

respectfully yours
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