Camping can be one of the best adventures you’ll find. Fresh air, stunning mountains, spectacular trees and more are all around most campsites. But humans aren’t the only species to be found among them. And not all the other ones are friendly.
Bears may look very cuddly on TV, but there are species that are dangerous and most people can not tell the difference between one and the next. Grizzlies, for example, are generally regarded as potentially life-threatening. An adult grizzly will eat a human. Telling the difference between them and Black Bears can be difficult.
As the name suggests, Black Bears tend to be dark. But a grizzly can vary from blond to black. Size is a possible clue, but it’s tough to tell the difference sometimes between a full grown Black Bear (around 300-400 lbs and 5ft tall when standing) and a teen grizzly.
Full grown grizzlies are larger, around 500 lbs and 6ft tall when standing. Needless to say, when a bear is standing in front of you, you have other things to think about than identification.
There is one unmistakable sign – grizzlies have a hump on the back of the neck that Black Bears lack. But making it out especially when they are in motion toward you, can be hard. Black Bears have smaller, more triangular heads that can help identification.
Grizzlies have a more flattened face, with a depression between the eyes and their ears are rounded. Black Bears, by contrast have a snout and more pointed ears. If you’re close enough to make out these details without binoculars, however, you are too close.
Wild cats often inhabit wilderness and camping areas, and they too can be dangerous, even lethal. Most will avoid contact with humans, but if hungry or pressed they can attack. A hungry cougar or puma will carry off a child if it hasn’t had any other food source for a while.
Bobcats, though small, are surprisingly strong for their size and no one should test their skill against those razor sharp teeth and claws. Lynx are a similar species, having telltale hair tufts on their ears and blunt tails. Also small and shy (about the size of a large house cat and weighing 30 lbs), they can be fierce if they’re protecting young.
Mountain lions still roam parts of the southwest in the US and don’t always limit their hunting to sheep. If you bring the family dog along on a camping trip be especially cautious about letting it roam where it might encounter a wild cat. Many dogs won’t back down and run away and they will always lose a fight with one.
Investigate which species are known to be in the area you intend to visit and take proper precautions when you’re there. Keep food stored in odor tight containers before and after meals and keep trash stowed well away from the campsite.