Here’s a common conundrum. As a camper, you’re likely someone who’s undeniably passionate about the world around us, and you want to experience as much of it as you can. But you also want to do everything in your power to ensure it stays healthy and green for many generations to come — including both its plant and animal inhabitants.
Travel, of course, does take a toll on the environment; most of those big hunks of metal we use to move around the earth are powered by carbon-producing fossil fuels. And if we’re not careful, our camping behaviors can wreak havoc on the delicate ecosystems we’re trying to observe — which is why animal protection is such an important thing to keep in mind during your RV trip.
Fortunately, there are a few best practices you can keep in mind on your next outing that’ll make you a much more wildlife-friendly visitor, and they’re not really that difficult to implement! From staying bear aware to learning how to deal with unexpected campsite visitors, here are some quick and easy tips for protecting the wildlife around you while you’re camping
Wildlife Protection for RV Campers
Here are just a few ways you can go the extra mile to ensure your camping habit doesn’t have a negative impact on the places you’re trying to keep wild!
1. Avoid wildlife if possible.
We get it: seeing an elk or deer — or even a bear! — in the wild is a super-fun part of your trip. In fact, if you’re a nature photographer or just a regular old wildlife lover, it may even be a huge part of why you went camping in the first place.
But aside from heading to the places where you know wildlife congregate at certain hours, like refuges or reserves, the best thing you can do for the local animals is to leave them alone! Every interaction aside from observation at a distance can wreak havoc on their natural circadian rhythms, diets, and more. So that means no feeding, petting, or otherwise getting up close and friendly with the wildlife you do encounter. Don’t forget: you’re entering THEIR home! It’s important that you be respectful of the way they go about their lives.
2. Be bear aware.
Although any wildlife encounter can be problematic for the furry friends on the other end of the interaction, when it comes to bears, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy, too, if you don’t take the proper precautions. That means making any food items (or anything that could conceivably smell like a food item, including trash, used cookware and utensils, and even toothpaste) needs to be put in an airtight container and kept either indoors with the windows closed or a good distance from your campsite. Some tent campers utilize bear bags, which they stash up in the trees by throwing a rope over a high branch, which can keep bears from getting into those delicious-smelling items. But if you’re RV camping, you might consider sealing your garbage bag into a cooler, for instance, and stashing it in your tow vehicle if you’ve got one.
Many public campgrounds in places with bear populations also have specially-crafted garbage cans that latch tight to keep bears’ prying paws from getting in. If such receptacles are around, make use of them… but no matter what you do, just make sure you don’t leave your smelly garbage outside in a plain old plastic bag!
Another important thing to keep in mind when camping in bear territory: hiking safety. And we use the term “hiking” generously. Even if you’re just taking a short walk in the woods, you need to be prepared for a possible encounter. The correct way to react to a bear you see in your path varies, depending on whether it’s a black bear or a grizzly bear. You can get the full details here — but for our purposes, the idea is to avoid an encounter altogether! There are a few easy precautions you can take which, while they can’t guarantee you won’t run into a bear, can significantly reduce your chances.
- Hike in a group — and talk to each other. As frightened as you may be of bears, they find you just as scary… so if you announce yourself with human noise, chances are they’ll stay away.
- If you’re hiking alone or talking quietly, clap or yell “hey, bear!” every so often to ensure you’re being heard. This gives you just a little bit of extra edge, particularly if you tend to be easily distracted by your friends.
- Keep your eyes peeled. The sooner you’re aware of a bear in your path, the sooner you can take the proper steps to react.
- Carry bear spray. Particularly in places like Glacier National Park, which is well-known for its grizzly population, bear spray can mean the difference between a close call and a catastrophe.
3. Be careful with your garbage — even if you’re not in bear territory.
Here’s the thing: all those tips we just laid out about being careful with your garbage in bear territory? They’re just as important in non-bear-populated areas, as well… because greedy, clever critters will certainly find their way into your garbage pile if they can, and again, what they find there might not be very good for them.
It might seem like no big deal when a raccoon goes rummaging in the dumpster. But let’s face it: Cheetos are pretty terrible for us, so chances are they’re not great for a small, woodland creature’s constitution, either. Plus, the positive reward of reaching garbage Nirvana can cause animals to get habituated to human interaction and less afraid of us and our cities… which means they’re more likely to find themselves flattened in the middle of a highway, since they’ll be less put off by our big, loud, motor-oil-driven presence.
Want to Save Wildlife?
In short, the very best thing you can do for the wildlife that inhabits the places you’re visiting is to leave them alone. But if you really want to do one better, you can try to go the opposite direction with your camping trip and turn it into a benefit for the animals and wild landscapes you encounter.
That’s where a concept called ecotourism comes into play. Ecotourism is all about finding ways to make your travels greener, or even to help in conservation efforts as part of your trip. We’ve written about it before, so check out the link below — along with some other simple ways to keep your camping trip Earth friendly!
- Ecotourism: What Is It, and How Can You Participate?
- 10 Easy Ways to Make Your Next Road Trip a Little More Green
- 8 Food Packages that Can be Reused Instead of Tossed
- 5 Effortless Ways to Reduce Daily Waste in your RV and Life
- Water Saving Hacks When You’re on the Road
Wildlife Protection Agency
So — ever wonder who makes animal protection laws? Who decided that endangered bat species was actually endangered, or made that lengthy list of protected birds?
Well, as it turns out, the concept of an endangered species is actually a pretty new one. It dates back to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, or ESA, which was passed by Congress in an effort to preserve the diversity of wildlife with which we share our planet.
These days, the ESA enables the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department to declare and keep track of endangered species, as well as taking steps to get them back on track when they notice they’re struggling. The bureau works with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), other Federal, State, and local agencies, Tribes, non-governmental organizations, and private citizens to get the most up-to-date, reliable information about how native animal populations are doing, and what can be done to preserve their habitats.
You can get involved with protecting endangered species, whether by donating to a charity that works to protect these delicate creatures or by taking steps in your own life to reduce your carbon footprint and other human impacts. And, by creating a wildlife-friendly campsite as described above, you’ll go a long way toward ensuring your desire to see these critters in their natural environment doesn’t do too much to degrade that environment in the meantime.
Keeping this planet green, healthy, and inhabited by all the wild creatures we love to share it with is one of the best ways to ensure it’s a fun place to go camping for many generations to come. Thanks for doing your part, campers!
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