Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats?


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Steven Diogenes
(stevenn) - F
Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/12/2014 00:00:42 MST Print View

I've always been skittish about animals I can't see.. whether I'm in the water surfing and thinking about sharks, or at night in the woods. It really unnerves me and I find it very difficult to be out in the woods alone. Is this something that everyone just gets used to? Like being in a new house and hearing new sounds enough to get used to them?

I'm getting more and more comfortable the more I do it-- mostly from realizing that the little critters are just mice or raccoons. I still throw rocks at noises but I'm getting better. It didn't help when in Santa Cruz sleeping by the tracks, 4 or 5 raccoons in the middle of the night chased one directly towards me. Or in Florida when I found out I was taking an afternoon nap next to a snake den and that black racers sometimes mimic rattlesnakes by shaking their tail in dry leaves. I was overthinking in Montana when we kept hearing an elk very close, wondering if it was mating season, scared one would trample our tent. In contrast, I fell asleep in Atlanta surrounded by rats without being scared or bothered.

So, any tips? I try to keep things in perspective. eg, being aware that most predators are silent, so if I hear it, it's most likely nothing to worry about, or that most animals are wary rather than aggressive, or the statistics. It helps, but not too much.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/12/2014 01:40:58 MST Print View

"So, any tips?"

If I really want to photograph the wildlife at night, I set out a line of jingle bells tied along a black nylon thread, and I tie it about eight inches above the ground. The mice will run underneath it and not wake me up. The big critters will sound the bells and wake me up.

If that isn't sufficient, I have an electronic intruder alert system that I can put in a perimeter around my camp. When any big critter approaches, the system either wakes me quietly or else scares the hell out of the critter loudly.

Otherwise, use ear plugs.

--B.G.--

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/12/2014 06:06:11 MST Print View

I think you have a pretty good feel for the issue. At first animal noises are unnerving for just about everyone.

Statistics should help a lot. People are far more dangerous than wild animals in North America. In the woods there are more animals and less people.

"Familiarity breeds contempt" as they say. As time goes on you should grow more and more comfortable. For example, people who have trouble sleeping starting out on the Appalachian Trail often hardly give it a thought at the end of their hike. It's all part of the adventure!

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? on 01/12/2014 08:06:35 MST Print View

Here in Colorado, I never really worry about critters. I've not seen a bear or lion, ever, although they say they're out there. Once I had a herd of maybe 10-12 elk come by my tent in the middle of the night during mating season. They were pretty adroit at going around my tent. A huge moose once patrolled the lake shore near where I was sleeping, grunting periodically to remind me that he was still around. It was sweet to finally hear him go, "Harr-UMPH!", which in moose-talk means something like, "There, sucker, I'm outta here, and I win."

But Yellowstone is a different story. The first few nights I have a terrible sleep. I hear everything, and there's a lot of critters roaming around at night (especially during a full moon, it seems). I have taken to popping a couple of Benedryl with my late dinner, and this lets me sleep straight through until morning. At Shoshone Lake last July I woke up and fired up my stove for my morning Joe on the beach. I noticed some tracks in the sand along the water's edge--the biggest griz tracks I've ever seen. It was nice of him to leave me alone while he strolled past in the middle of the night. I like bears that do that. If I wasn't slightly drugged, I probably would have heard him and freaked out.

I'm thinking that almost all critters will pass right by, if you don't bait them or otherwise pose a threat. But moose might be a different story altogether. They're so territorial, unpredictable, and goofy. Mice, raccoons, and other rodents might scour your campsite during the night, looking for food, and deer might come by to see if there might be a sweaty T-shirt that they can chew on for the salt, but none of these guys pose a personal threat to you.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
sounds on 01/12/2014 08:15:52 MST Print View

ear plugs

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Re: sounds on 01/12/2014 10:44:11 MST Print View

A couple tips:

1. make sure your tent/tarp don't rub up against each other. Same with your tent. Also make sure no branches , etc are rubbing up against your tent/tarp. If the wind kicks in they will make noise and it will SEEM like something is sneaking up on you.

2. ear plugs... but keep them half in.. the minor sounds will be blocked out but any major sounds like a bear outside trying to get into your food will still wake you up.

also, make sure to do the math on running into critters.

Realistically, a black bear is your main concern. Serious animal contact is rare and if you ever run into a mountain lion you should consider yourself lucky.

Also, you DO get used to it...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: sounds on 01/12/2014 11:09:10 MST Print View

The worst animal sounds we experienced were two raccoons fighting in a tree overhead while camped on the Olympic NP beaches. Like a cat fight on steroids.

I sleep through everything else. If you're freaky about bugs and critters, there are plenty of fully enclosed tents and hammocks.

@ Bob: what kind of perimeter alarm do you use?

Travis Bernard
(DispatchesfromtheNorth) - F - M

Locale: Lake Laberge
Animal Sounds on 01/12/2014 12:15:18 MST Print View

Two summers ago some friends and I were on a 8 day canoe trip on the Teslin River. My girlfriend and I were familiar with living in bear country but the other 3 members of our group were not. My buddy Matt, who is your typical young, 'invincible' male didn't seem to be too concerned about bear safety. We kept hassling him to remember to take bear spray when he wandered off for a walk after arriving at camp. We also had to constantly remind him to keep all food, toothpaste, and other odours out of his tent.

One night he decided, without our knowledge, that he was going to take some crackers and sausage into the tent for a snack while he read before bed. It wasn't a bear he ended up having to deal with, but he had quite the story to regal us with the next morning. Apparently, as he was reading he heard a sound outside the tent. He said it sounded like an animal shuffling along at first. And then he heard several low grunts.

Of course, he assumed it was a bear and decided that his best option was to just stay quiet and wait to see what would happen. He reached for his bear spray but realized that he'd left it in his backpack which was down at our cook site with the food. The grunting continued to get louder and closer to his tent and as he looked out into the vestibule he saw a paw reach under the nylon and a snout followed shortly after. He yelled and began shaking the tent and thankfully the animal got scared and ran off.

The next morning, after he had finished telling us the story we had a look around to try to determine what it could have been. Though we can't say with 100% confidence, after looking at the tracks and listening to his story we deduced that it was likely a wolverine that was passing through.

Wolverine's are rare to spot, and I've yet to see one in my time up here, but I'm pretty confident that I'd prefer a bear rummaging around my campsite rather than a wolverine. Needless to say, Matt was far more careful with food for the remainder of the trip and he remembered to take his bear spray with him to bed from that point forward.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: sounds on 01/12/2014 14:12:28 MST Print View

"@ Bob: what kind of perimeter alarm do you use?"

Many, many years ago, I used an advanced intruder alert system in the military. It worked pretty good. So, years after that as I got into backpacking, some alarm would be useful in some areas, so I designed one myself. It is called a Break-wire Loop, and it uses one battery, one IC, a few other parts, one switch, one bright light, and one loud sound producer. As I recall, it can work with a perimeter up to about a thousand feet long.

--B.G.--

Stephen Adams
(stevemkedcom) - MLife

Locale: Northwest
heebie-jeebies at night on 01/12/2014 14:56:19 MST Print View

While through hike the PCT this last summer I had an injury that forced me off the trail to recover for two months just south of Whitney. When I got back 2 months later I was literally the last through hiker on the PCT for the summer. A friend hiked with me through the JMT but once I got past Yosemite I was on my own and went days with out seeing anyone. The 2nd day out of Yosemite I encountered a big black bear standing in the trail just at sunset when I was going to make camp. It ran off but gave me the heebie-jeebies that night and every night from then on. I lost count of how many bears I encountered during the day along with one mountain lion and a Bobcat. The weather was good most of the time so I normally cowboy camped but twice I was awakened by something sniffing my hair. By the time I was awake enough to realize it, the animal was gone. I had a wool hoody so from then on I put that over my hair and never had that problem again. I also had some problems with mice and would wake up to little gnawing sounds. I would have to shoo them away from my pack. The straps on my pack are nearly chewed through in some places now and I even have tooth marks in my Iphone. I found that sleeping up high on an exposed ridge made me feel better than down in a deep dark forest where I could hear branch crack 100 yards away. I would tell my self it was most likely a deer or raccoon but it still would take me 10 minutes to calm down and go back to sleep. Also sleeping right next to a babbling brook or if it was windy would drown out the animal noises and I was much more relaxed. I did have some earplugs and some drugs I could take but I was thinking If I kept facing my fear it would go away but after a couple more months it never did until I caught up with another through hiker at Crater lake and we went the rest of the way together always camping with in 50 feet of each other, which for some reason made me feel much better about the sounds at night. I plan on hiking the PNT this summer and will probably just take the drugs and earplugs when I have to sleep in the woods.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/13/2014 09:44:11 MST Print View

when stealth camping away from possible human crowds, the first night out of the season, I still wake up hearing the pattern of footsteps on leaves. I assume it's a scavenger rodent, I yell out "Hey! Who's out there?" if the noise continues, then it's probably the wind rustling leaves or a deaf snake coming to eat me in my sleep (joke!) I am a magnet for squirrels. It could also be a snake chasing the squirrels that appreciate my body aroma.

I bring ear plugs but only use them for heavy rain and howling winds. I want to know about my surroundings, such as animal movements, lightning or forest fires.

Similar to Bob's alarm system, I've rigged a poorman trigger, empty soda can with 3 pebbles, threaded with tooth floss string around a perimeter. I typically end up tripping on it when nature calls at night and I'm half asleep in poor lighting.

and when solo, I carry my second amendment.

Edited by RogerDodger on 01/13/2014 09:46:21 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/13/2014 12:32:11 MST Print View

My experience is that more nights out is the only solution. Eventually your mind will learn to be selective. It's been decades since squirrel farts woke me in the night, but I still wake up when larger things wander close (in Glacier, often deer looking for salty packs to chew on).

Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
Re: Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/13/2014 17:57:38 MST Print View

I started backpacking and camping with my dad when I was 6. I was about 13 before I realized that the animals i heard slowly walking around the tent in the middle of the night were in fact my eye lashes rubbing on the nylon sleeping bag as I blinked.

I worry a lot less these days.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Selective Deafness on 01/14/2014 13:58:13 MST Print View

Squirrel farts wake me up most nights too. But it's funny that I can't hear my 3mo daughter fuss and squirm at night, and she's 20' away in my quiet house.

But seriously, I have the same issue as the OP. It is difficult to acclimate to the sounds of the nighttime woods when you only get out a handful of times a year (I mean decade, not year). It is upsetting, because we love being outside, but those nights often result in the worst sleep possible.

I have no suggestions here, and just deal with it the best I can. I have to remind myself that most things I hear are small critters, and they want nothing to do with me. I haven't seen much megafauna on the trail lately too, so that reassures me that they are usually secretive as well.

Heck, I even did some AT in NH this past September, and stayed at the AMC Huts. That is even a "save" place, and all the farting, snoring and coughing of the other guests made it difficult for me to sleep as well.

Same goes for hotel rooms - new sleeping environments bring a heightened alertness. Only time (and drugs and plugs) can conquer this.

Reginald Donaldson
(worth) - MLife

Locale: Wind River Range
It gets easier on 01/14/2014 17:01:51 MST Print View

The more familiar you are with the type if surroundings, habitat and animals the easier it becomes. A few years ago on a canoe trip in the swamp we had a difficult time finding a place to sleep due to flooding. We slept on a small sandbar barely big enough for the tents and canoes. During the night I awoke to the sound of rustling and cracking twigs. My headlamp is only good for the task at hand. I have no idea what it was and was not about to step out blind into the dark. I suspect it was a gator.

Anthony Huhn
(anthonyjhuhn) - F - MLife

Locale: Mid West
Suggestions on 01/14/2014 17:17:46 MST Print View

I would highly suggest an ipod shuffle (.56ounces) and earbuds (0.45ounces) or earplugs (~0.1ounce)

I think a 1.01ounce ipod is weight well spent. Or you probably have a phone already... you can get free "white noise" aps, you could even set it up with a sleep timer to turn it off after an hour or two.

Anthony

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Don't tune it out. on 01/14/2014 22:21:07 MST Print View

Leave the earplugs and iPod at home and tune in, not out.

I'm confused that I hear people say they carry earplugs for when it's really stormy or raging outside. I always thought that listening to the weather raise hell all night was one of the best parts of being out. So what if you loose some sleep. I've never heard of a deathbed confession in which someone wished they slept more. I can get perfect, silent, dark sleep at home.

Thunderstorms in the High Sierra, windstorms in the Mojave, and summer rainstorms in Utah are some of my greatest pleasures in life. I wouldn't tune them out for the world.

As for animals, consider yourself to be lucky enough to be experiencing animals in the real world. Consider yourself blessed to have an encounter with an animal in its environment.

I woke in Mojave moonlight one night to the sound of a jackrabbit in a bush next to my bag. On the other side of me, another rustle. Turning slowly in that direction, I saw the coyote creeping in. I was caught in the middle, frozen and listening, until the jack made a break. The coyote was only a few feet from having to jump over me. It scared me silly when it bolted. One of the best damned nights I've ever had in the desert.

__________________________________________

Nothing is going to eat you.

*And if anything is going to eat you, it's probably bigger, stronger, and you won't have much chance anyway. Better than in a hospital bed, I figure.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Animal noises on 01/14/2014 23:44:32 MST Print View

+ 1 what Craig said.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/15/2014 07:49:25 MST Print View

skittish about animals I can't see

Skittish? I am one who was not skittish of nighttime forest noises ... utter terror would be a much more accurate word.

Fast forward 50 years ... I sleep "cowboy or under a tarp without a second thought (outside of biting insect season).

What changed? Small doses alone in the dark to start with and then incremental increases with conscious effort to be fascinated by the noises. That got me from terrified to merely uncomfortable. The next step was a slow two mile midnight walk through forest I knew somewhat without using lights (was equipped to camp safely if I got lost). After that the lingering low level unease faded with time.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M
Alien noises on 01/15/2014 11:44:54 MST Print View

Animals are the least of my worries. One snowy night, I awoke to the sound of alien lasers shredding my tent!







(Once awake, a quick investigation revealed that the noise was just snow sliding off the tent.)

Kelly G
(KellyDT) - F
Noises on 01/15/2014 21:32:17 MST Print View

I've spent most of my life camping, and in recent years, backpacking. I hate the sounds of insects and mice at night, and they easily keep me awake. Ear plugs, a babbling brook, or a light wind, do help.
Kelly

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Perimeter security on 01/17/2014 09:40:40 MST Print View

There are a number of different type of perimeters alarm systems. One I've used is a personal keychain alarm (130 decibels) and fishing line. Both ends will be tied to a tree and if something hits the fishing line the keychain alarm will be activated.

It's inexpensive and it works.

http://www.amazon.com/Safeguard-Activator-Personal-Emergency-Panic/dp/B002OOQ2P2/ref=pd_sim_sbs_lg_4/190-1931917-7323018

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Perimeter security on 01/17/2014 16:03:25 MST Print View

that's a neat gadget.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Perimeter security on 01/17/2014 16:08:53 MST Print View

Seriously? Sounds like a great way to wake the entire forest at 2AM over a baby raccoon.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Perimeter security on 01/17/2014 16:23:07 MST Print View

This guy at work was saying he saw it on a TV show and put together a trigger on a mouse trap, with a nail to tap the bottom of a shotgun cartridge shell.

I like to stealth camp, and now I worry about people watching this on TV and rigging it up in places I go... and worse (if that is possible) they forget to disengage the trigger when they go home, and well... it's a Rambo movie scene or a Dick Cheney "incident"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney_hunting_incident

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Perimeter security on 01/17/2014 16:29:01 MST Print View

"Sounds like a great way to wake the entire forest at 2AM over a baby raccoon."

Excellent. Wake me up to get the photo.

--B.G.--

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Lions, Tigers, and Bears - Oh My! on 01/17/2014 17:10:05 MST Print View

If you are seriously afraid of the animals in the forest, logic suggests you don't go into that forest. Problem solved.


Seriously, do your research beforehand; know what, if any, dangerous animals are known to frequent the area, their habits, and the appropriate avoidance techniques. Then plan accordingly. Ipod off; brain on!

I would only take special protective precautions in areas where Grizzly or Polar Bears are found. Fortunately for me, Polar Bears in the PNW are found only in zoos.

Black Bears are rarely predatory; they just want your food, so use common sense - keep a clean camp and use either a bear canister or a good hang. Once Yogi and Boo-Boo get your food, you would be foolish to attempt to get it back. If an overly aggressive Black Bear is known to be operating in a given area, think twice before camping there.

Cougars are not known to sneak into camp at night just to eat hikers. They are ambush predators. Suggestion - it is probably not a good idea to go for a solo run in their territory, especially with ear buds in and your ipod on.

You'll never hear a snake coming. Refer to paragraph 2.

Remember, zombies must be shot in the head and werewolves take a silver bullet. Experience has led me to believe that my hiking socks, hanging on a nearby bush, will effectively repell all living things within a 50 yard radius. Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for my socks and hiking shirt are the meanest SOBs in the valley.

Edited by wandering_bob on 01/17/2014 22:15:59 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Noises on 01/17/2014 19:07:42 MST Print View

Bob - socks - perfect!!!

The two worst bush night-time noises I have ever heard were of some concern.

The first was made by an angry koala bear in the tree above us. OK, OK, you Americans can laugh. A cute cuddly koala bear? But you have never heard one when it's angry. It sounded like a cross between an Amityville horror and a chain saw at full throttle - in the dark. And close. Fortunately, I knew what it was.

The second noise, which did have me worried (but not scared) was that of a car load of drunk teenagers parking near our tent at 8 pm in the bush. Definitely not good. I crawled out of the tent and 'looked' at them. After some mumbling they left. I don't think the underpants I was wearing at the time intimidated them, but maybe the 3 lb machete with a 1/4" thick back in my hand might have been noticed.

Animals? I'm bigger than most of them, and I am a carnivore.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 01/17/2014 19:09:04 MST.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Do you get used to animal noises? What about scaredy cats? on 01/17/2014 21:11:59 MST Print View

Nothing much to worry about in NZ animal wise. However,I did get spooked the other day when a Kea crept up behind me under my tarp. Like Dave C, I have found that the more nights out the less jumpy you get. However, once in a while something is going to spook you - it's just the way we are wired.

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Alien noises on 01/17/2014 22:09:24 MST Print View

"I awoke to the sound of alien lasers shredding my tent!
...
(Once awake, a quick investigation revealed that the noise was just snow sliding off the tent.)"

Ha! For me it was the sound of an unknown but huge animal snorting just outside the tent. Darn snow.

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F - M

Locale: SE US
Do you get used to animal noises? on 01/18/2014 13:24:12 MST Print View

>"Leave the earplugs and iPod at home and tune in, not out."
I sleep outdoors almost weekly year-round, and the only noise that bothers me is the buzzing of gnats and mosquitoes in warm weather. I'll take my ear plugs over being tuned in to that!

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Do you get used to animal noises? on 01/18/2014 21:00:16 MST Print View

Santa Cruz Channel Island which gets very low visitors, on the trail ran into these two dudes very much in love, had the usual trail crossroad conversation about the elusive island fox. that night I stealth camped on a ridge, they were at a nearby campsite. At 2AM, I woke up to echo of the thundering screaming words: "OH! FAAAHQ! SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYT"

I believe they located the foxhole.