I was recently reminded of a critical lesson when it comes to camping. If you do not keep your campsite clean, you will soon have all the visitors you never wanted to see in the first place. Everything from skunks and raccoons to bears and squirrels will soon be treating your campsite like the pantry you present it as once you give them that initial access.
Now obviously it is important to take special care when camping in bear country. If you are in a position where you are sharing the woods with bears, a whole new set of precautions needs to be addressed. What we are discussing here is a case where you are camping in a generally bear free area. Know that special care still needs to be maintained in order to keep your site free of unwanted visitors.
Here is my story. We were having a wonderful time camping in the far reaches of New York’s Adirondack Park. The weather was warm and the breeze was just right. The campground wasn’t overly crowded due to the early season and it was far quieter than any recent camping trip I had been on. Our trouble began when an errant potato chip made its way to the grass just outside of our campsite.
The chip soon became the sole possession of a neighborhood chipmunk. As if by magic, one chipmunk soon turned into several. These things were brazen to say the least. Before long, we soon had them scurrying through our woodpile and under our picnic table.
I can understand the fact that many of these animals are totally desensitized to the presence of humans being that they live in a popular campground. They most likely make their “living” by taking food from campers who may or may not be aware of their presence. Much to my dismay, I was witness first hand to their brashness as they literally came within inches of my wife and I as we sat by the fire attempting to locate more food.
The bravery of these little things knew no bounds. When my wife and I went down to the water to watch the sunset, we could hear each tiny animal as it scurried through the leaves next to the path. We would occasionally see them pop out of the grass or peer from behind a log checking on our progress.
Now, I generally don’t pay much attention to chipmunks in my daily life. While they are cute and I do enjoy watching them as they scurry in the grass near my home, I wanted nothing to do with them here. The ones who live near my home generally behave as wild animals should and immediately make themselves scarce whenever they see me coming. These ones however were making their presence known.
When we returned to our campsite, a familiar scurrying noise could be heard from over near our picnic table. It turns out we had not fully secured one of the bags of chips that we had been eating prior to walking down to the water. In our absence, the chipmunks that failed to follow us were busily helping themselves to all that we had!
I wish I could say this was the end of our encounter with the chipmunks, but sadly it wasn’t. For the remainder of the weekend, we spent a considerable amount of time chasing chipmunks away from our campsite. Every time we would sit down to have a meal, several chipmunks would seem to pop up out of nowhere and begin advancing on our picnic table. While we never gave them any additional food, they never seemed to forget what they had previously gotten from us and were forever on the lookout.
The moral of this story is simple. If you drop a chip, don’t let it sit. Animals that live in nature have grown quite accustomed to eating our leftovers and will gladly help themselves to whatever they think you don’t need. If you want to ensure a pest free camping experience, don’t give them that first opportunity!
Trust me when I say that a cute animal is best seen from a distance, especially when camping! The more you invite it in, the more you will realize it is not the cute animal you expected. What you are getting by luring animals in with food is less an interesting pet and more an annoying relative that will never leave once it realizes the comforts of your home. Keep your campsite clean folks!