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Camping with Kids Can Introduce New Worries About Wildlife

by Liz Childers

In February, Kevin Nealon voiced some of his fears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. What were they about, you wonder? Well, it was the simple subject of camping. Nealon, the funny man from Saturday Night Live and Weeds, wants to take his 4 year-old son camping, but expresses some concerns about the wildlife. “I want to take him camping eventually, but I also hear about bear attacks, too, and stuff,” Nealon says. “And I’m just not sure which animals you’re supposed to play dead with.”

While Nealon goes on to joke about the (dis)advantages of playing dead with bears, possums, and vultures, he does raise a good point. The well-publicized bear attacks throughout the summer have reminded campers that they are not alone when they venture into the woods. Most campers are aware of this danger, and, hopefully, know what to do should they encounter a bear. But, like Nealon pointed out, should you be more cautionary if you’re bringing a young child along for the trip? The answer is, of course, yes, and there are a few things you should stress to your child before you leave home.

Pick up trash

Picking up trash is the obvious step for preventing bear encounters in your campsite. However, children are famous for dropping everything from toys to food as soon as something new catches their attention, and this creates a danger when camping.

As soon as you set up camp, designate a trash bag for everyone’s trash – remember to properly store the trash at night, though! If you’re in a campground, show your child where the trashcan is. Make sure your child knows they should always bring leftover food or trash to the trash bag or can.

If your child is at an age that lends itself to being easily distracted – or if you want to be cautious – pick up some Doggie Walk Bags from a convenience store. These are inexpensive and can typically be found in a carrying case that straps to a wrist or belt loop for easy access. Plus, the bags are like kid-sized trash bags, so you child will have no problem toting his own garbage around!

Play dead

Chances are that a small child won’t seem threatening to a bear. However, they should still be taught how to react if they surprise a bear. Out of recommended techniques for bear encounters, playing dead is the only suitable option for a child. Bear spray is not safe for a child to carry, and the “acting large” technique won’t be affective.

Therefore, teach your child how to play dead before you leave home. Lie flat facing the ground; this protects your vital parts. Use your hands to protect your neck. Keep your legs together. Have your child mimic what you do and tell him to not struggle if he ever has to actually play dead. Make sure he knows to never run from the bear.

Wear a whistle

With all the distractions of the woods, children could wander away from the campsite without you realizing it. Buy a whistle before you head out for the trip. Have your child wear it around his neck and blow the whistle if he ever gets separated from the rest of the family. Knowing you’ll have a way of finding your kid should he get lost will alleviate your own worries and help ensure that the child has no bear encounters alone.

Do you ever worry about taking your kids camping? Let us know if you have any tips! Also, check out the video of Kevin on the Ellen show below.