Four ways to keep Yogi out of your picnic basket

Backyard barbecues, picnic lunches in parks, and morning coffee on the porch are signs that summer has officially arrived. But they’re also activities that can attract wildlife – and that can lead to conflict.

Here are five ways you can enjoy your outdoor meals and make sure that Yogi bear (and all the other critters around) doesn’t get into trouble as a result:

  1. Get rid of the obvious. Food scraps, unwashed containers, and wrappers can all easily attract a magnitude of wildlife to an area. Removing all of these items and keeping trash in a secure (sealed/lockable) container is the first step to preventing possible conflict.
  2. Think outside the box – and look inside it. Most animals that will come into conflict with us over food have much stronger olfactory senses, so don’t rely on what you can see with a quick glance. The grease trap in a backyard barbecue, the baked beans that got spilled under a camp chair, and even citronella candles can be attractants for various animals.
  3. Don’t eat where you sleep. For seasoned campers this one is obvious – but for a lot of people new to sleeping under the stars it bears (pun not intended) repeating. Keep food items and waste away from tents or sleeping bags, and when in bear country, in bear proof containers.
  4. Stay out of the food web. Giving squirrels and chipmunks peanuts, or providing seed for birds can be a breathtaking feeling – especially for those who aren’t used to be surrounded by small animals. But all of those small animals are part of a complex food web, and are meals for larger animals. When we invite these small animals to be near us, we’re also inviting the larger ones – and that’s often how conflict can start, at home, in parks, or in the deep wilderness.

We can be surrounded by nature – whether it’s in a city park, a suburban backyard barbecue, or a remote campsite – and continue to co-exist. We just need to understand that in most cases of conflict, it’s our behaviour that leads to conflict; and it’s changes to our behaviour that will end it.

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