One of the things campers worry about is encountering a wild animal and fending off for his/her life in the wilderness. While this is a valid concern, campers must not forget that they, too, have a responsibility. After all, they’re the ones entering unfamiliar territory and if the animals feel they’re threatened, they’ll act on natural animal instinct–and that’s to defend themselves.
In the case of wolves, a study from the International Wolf Center showed that there had not been a single human death from wolves in the 20th century. To further drive its point that wolves are not a threat to human safety, the study said: “A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf.”
While that gives many campers a sense of relief, campers must still take their responsibility seriously. If they’re camping in wolf country, they should make the extra effort to learn more about the place they plan to camp in as well as the possible wolf encounter they might have. To help the campers out, here are a few important facts to know about camping in wolf country:
Wolf attacks on humans are highly unlikely, but the behavior of a wolf will depend on the behavior of the campers or the humans in the area. If humans know the right way to act when camping in wolf country, wolves will not present a significant danger.
How Dangerous Are Wolves When Camping?
Wolves in the United States
Wolf packs live in different states and are quite spread out. There are an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 wolves that live in the U.S. alone. They mostly reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Do note that some wolf packs may be roaming so they may still be seen in other states.
Humans and Wolves
Have you always wondered if wolves are only afraid of predators bigger than them? The truth is, wolves do fear humans, and they will avoid humans or any human interaction as much as possible. However, there are wolves out there who’ve had experiences with humans. These wolves can either be less afraid of humans or can get really aggressive when confronted due to a bad experience. And since you won’t know how a wolf will react when you’re confronted by one at camp, it’s best to stay cautious.
The other things that wolves are afraid of are bright lights and loud noises. And of course, any unfamiliar situation to them can make them fearful.
Wolves and Dogs
Some people like to bring their dogs with them during a camping trip, and some campers feel like it won’t be an issue at all. If you’re camping in wolf country, it’s not a good idea. While wolves will not attack humans for no reason, they will attack dogs instinctively. Wolves see dogs as rivals or competition, and if you have a dog at camp, there’s an increased chance of attracting unwanted visitors.
Now if you have to bring your dog with you, these are some safety tips to remember and practice:
- Wolves recognize a dog from the smell of its urine. While in the outdoors, set aside a specific place where your dog can do its business. As you may know, peeing on something means owning that territory in animal talk. And if your dog just pees everywhere, this may trigger the wolves or even the other local wildlife. Remember, wolves are very territorial animals.
- Apart from the pee, the droppings of your dog can really attract wolves, too. Dispose of the droppings properly. Otherwise, your dog’s life can be in danger.
- Let your dog sleep with you inside the tent. Never leave it out or tie its leash around a tree overnight. When the wolves come, your dog may not stand a chance.
The Steps to Take to Ensure a Safe Camping Trip in Wolf Country
It’s indeed good news to know that wolves do not pose a threat to human safety, however, you must always keep in mind that your actions may trigger the opposite reaction from a wolf. And it’s not just you, it can be the action of another person with you. It is imperative that you stay alert and cautious.
How to Keep Wolves Away from the Campsite
The first step is learning the ways you can keep wolves away from your campsite or not attract the fierce creatures in the first place. Here’s how to do that:
- Get rid of the garbage properly – One of the things that attract wolves is the smell of food. Knowing this, you have to get rid of any garbage, especially food and those that smell, the right way. Pack them in bags and seal them tight. You may suspend the bags so the creepy crawlies cannot poke holes in the bags and leave garbage scattered. Also, don’t bury the garbage as this will not get rid of the smell.
- Wash your utensils – Whatever you used for meal prep, cooking, and eating, make sure to wash them after use. After washing, dispose of the dirty dishwater far away from the campsite.
- Don’t bring a pet – If you can leave your dog or pets at home, please do.
- Keep the kids with you at all times – If you’re bringing the kids with you, don’t let them wander off alone. They’re small and won’t frighten wolves away as much as adults. Wolves can easily target them based on their size alone.
- Clean your waste – If you can pick a campsite with toilet facilities nearby, then that’s a better choice. If not, you’d have to make sure to properly dispose of your own waste, too. Again, wolves are attracted to the smell of urine and droppings. Their curiosity can either lead them to your campsite or worse, they might think you’re being territorial. Even the other local wildlife may feel this way.
- Steer clear of animal carcasses – When picking a campsite, make sure there is no animal carcass around it. This can easily attract wolves.
- Don’t invite the wolf – No matter how cute a wolf looks, never give an open invitation to your campsite.
Tools to Deter Wolves
Now that your campsite is wolf-proof, there are also tools you can use to ward them off. These are the tools you should have in your arsenal when camping in wolf country:
- Wolves don’t like loud noises, so having a whistle with you at all times is a good idea. The shrill and piercing sound emitted by whistles will scare wolves off because they have very sensitive hearing. Not to mention, having a whistle with you is also helpful to alert others if you’re in trouble or lost.
- Wolves are not fond of bright lights. So if you can, bring a flashlight with you. At the campsite, having a bonfire will be helpful, too.
- In the case of an encounter, having rocks, sticks, or anything you can throw at the wolves will be helpful. Yes, even wolves don’t like it when things are hurled at them. The throwing shows that you are a tough creature and you’re ready to fight back, which can intimidate them. Be careful not to provoke them and only do this when absolutely necessary.
- Bring a bear spray with you for an added safety measure. Bear sprays are so strong that it can stop a bear from coming at you, so you might as well use it on an attacking wolf, too.
What to Do in a Wolf Encounter While Hiking?
So, your campsite will not attract wolves or other local wildlife, but what if you encounter a wolf while you’re hiking? How should you act? These are the best things you can do when confronted by a wolf:
- DO NOT run – Whatever you do, do not run. This will trigger the wolf’s predatory instinct and will run after you. And you know that you can’t outrun a wolf, right?
- Back away slowly – You can start backing up slowly without turning your back from it. This way, your eyes are still set on the wolf while you’re distancing yourself.
- Look bigger and be noisier – You can wave your arms and stand tall to make it look like you’re bigger. The wolf will think you’re a bigger predator then they are. Making loud noises can also save your life.
- Don’t fall down – In whatever movement you do, make sure you do it standing up and avoid falling down. When a wolf sees you fall, this shows weakness, and then they might not hesitate to attack.
Whether or not a wolf appears to be aggressive, practice these tips. Additionally, if you can, recall the place where you encountered the wolves so you and other campers can steer clear of that area.
How to Avoid Getting Attacked?
What else can you do to make sure that the wolves don’t see you as prey and instead, respect your presence and leave you alone? Here are some more helpful tips to make sure you get home safely and in one piece:
- When exploring the outdoors in wolf country, go in groups because the wolves usually travel in packs, too. A wolf pack seeing a lone traveler can be an open invitation for an attack.
- Stay away from wolf dens.
- Wolves are nocturnal creatures, so they sleep during the day and hunt for food at night. Don’t hike after the sun sets as this will increase your chances of encountering a hungry wolf. To add, it’s also not wise to hike at night because you can get lost or injure yourself due to the darkness.
- When cooking meat, do store it properly before and after cooking it, and don’t forget to wash the dishes and utensils right after using them. Wolves love meat and are attracted to the smell of it.
- Don’t think for a second that feeding a wolf will make it not want to attack you; it’s the same as trying to pet one. A wolf is a respected animal. It’s not your pet, so don’t try to get friendly with it. You’d want a wolf to respect you so they can still fear you and will be less aggressive towards you.
When Wolves Attack
In the unfortunate chance that an aggressive wolf attacks you or the campsite, the first thing you must do is to protect yourself. These are the two best things you can do in this situation.
The first thing is to try and fight back. Remember the whistle you should be carrying with you? There’s no better time to use it than now! Blow the whistle non-stop. And while you’re blowing the whistle, try picking up sticks and stones to hurl at the wolf. Be cautious, though, only throw the objects if you’re 100% that a wolf is about to attack you. Otherwise, you might just have provoked it.
Using your flashlight will also be a good idea right now. Direct it towards the eyes of the wolf as it doesn’t like bright lights.
If those things didn’t work, the next best thing to do is to curl into a ball so you can protect your head, neck, stomach, arms, and legs. This is usually what people do when they’re attacked by bears, too. Stay in the ball position until the wolf leaves. If it sees an opening, it will not hesitate to take you down.
Now if you were bitten, you must get it treated in a nearby hospital or clinic immediately. While the wolf may not have killed you, rabies might. This is why getting vaccinated before your camping trip is ideal.
On the other hand, if you are not vaccinated and was bitten, you still have a chance to fight rabies as long as you get the vaccine within six days after the exposure. Apart from rabies, the hospital will have to treat the wound to prevent bacterial infection as well as stitch you up if you’re losing a lot of blood.
By the way, you don’t have to be bitten by a wolf just to get yourself checked. If it scratched you or wounded you in any way, get medical care immediately.
There is always a risk involved whenever you go camping, whether it’s a wolf country or not. The important thing here is to know the right ways to prevent attracting wolves and deterring them. Know how to behave in their territory, respect them and their home, and you’ll get along fine. Don’t overthink or panic. Remember, wolves are afraid of humans so you can use that to your advantage without abusing it.