Camping Games and Critter Avoidance

Have you ever played "Eye Check" when camping?  You know, you put out the campfire and get in your tent.  Everyone gets ready for bed so you turn out the lights.  But before you snuggle into your sleeping bag you do an eye check:  Unzip the tent and shine the flashlight out around the edges of the campsite to see if any eyes glow.  (That brings a lot of feelings to the surface!)

There are a lot of critters that move around us at all times of the day and night when we are camping in our National Forests.  We don't always see them but they see, hear and smell us.

As much as I love watching wildlife, I don't want a real bear hug.  There are different opinions on the topic of feeding wildlife.  But you cannot deny that having a 300 lb, hairy, foreign-speaking, homeless guy eating whatever he wants from your campsite would be annoying, not to mention a little scary.  See tips below.

Black bear in George Washington-Jefferson National Forest, Bolar Mountain Recreation Area, Virginia

Black bear in George Washington-Jefferson National Forest, Bolar Mountain Recreation Area, Virginia

Here are a few things to keep in mind for camping in bear country (which also avoids other scavengers like mice, crows, buzzards, racoons and skunks):

  • Bears identify a potential food source by sight as much as smell.  It takes them 1 time to learn what a food source is.  If they find food or a sugary drink in a messy campsite, a plastic container or backpack, they'll sniff out another one when they see it.  Wash dishes immediately and put them away.  Do not leave empty soda cans laying around.  Use the campground garbage containers before sleeping or leaving your campsite


  • Children love to smuggle snacks into their sleeping bags.  NOT a good idea!  Keep all food out of sight in the trunk of your car when you are sleeping or away from your campsite.


  • Do not feed wildlife intentionally or unintentionally.  Nuisance bears are seldom relocated; they are euthanized.  Experience has shown that a relocated nuisance bear will, at the least, become a nuisance for someone else and, many times, they have travelled back to the same area; even 100 miles away.