Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Texas Camping and Hungry Varmints

If you camp over-night in a state park, be it Texas or any other park, you will have varmints visit your site while you sleep. It’s what is called, “a given”. In other words you will have animals in your camp looking for nibble goodies; little scraps of food, or more - unguarded loads of food.
The number one camp bandit is the raccoon and in state parks, the raccoons have ninjas-on-steroids skills. They have seen and will open almost any kind of container, cooler, box, or chest. They’ve seen it all and unless you place a heavy rock on top of your cooler, there is a good chance you will awaken during the night to the sound of “coons” rummaging through your stuff.

Raccoons make a very peculiar sound, especially when they are excited after finding something edible. To me, they sound like an alien from outer space, something like Mel Gibson’s character heard while standing in the cornfield in the movie “Signs”. It’s a major creep-out to novice campers, who huddling inside their tent and in the dark have no idea what it is.
I will attempt to describe their sounds: bubbles, clicks, purrs, and a cooing sound - kind of like a mischievous little monkey or a hideous malicious and drooling alien. Add to this the sound of a bungee strap slapping repeatedly against the side of an ice chest, aluminum and plastic cookware and eating utensils falling from the picnic table and the tree limb rubbing against your tent and you have everything you need to plead the mercies of your God.

However, once you realize what it is you are hearing, you have a couple of choices. First and the one I recommend is exiting your tent and chasing the critters to the far side of your flashlight’s beam (that’s all the farther they will retreat - trust me). Secure your stuff and then go back to sleep, hoping you didn’t miss something.
Your second choice is to suffer in silence while the raccoons ransack your site, again and again. My first experience with this phenomenon was about 30 years ago while camping at Camp Strake with the Boy Scouts. We were a bit sloppy in our camp discipline and the raccoons triple-teamed us all night. There is a reason they have the bandit band over their eyes. I think it has evolved along with their skill to rob campers of their goods.

This past camping trip I heard the hanging trash bag rattle as we sat around the campfire. Turning my powerful flashlight on, I spied a large coon peeking inside the bag, only halfway concerned with my awareness and about twenty feet behind it was a small fox. The fox is a second tier thief. Its modus operandi is to rob the raccoon and split the scene before the coon can catch it.

To me, that is justice served.

3 comments:

washington campgrounds said...

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Liz said...

Yes I agree - those little critters are crazy! As you said, they can open anything. We learned this the hard way a few years ago, while camping at Possum Kingdom State Park. They opened our food containers, which I believe were secured with bungee cords, and ate just about everything! Also tore town the trash bags and rummaged through them as well. It looked like a tornado had come through.. We like to geocache as well. Glad I found your blog!

Anonymous said...

I just got back from camping the other night. We had a group of about 4 take over our campsite. We watched everything go down. Tried to care them off, but they kept calling back. It was fun and scary. They were fighting over who would get the box of graham crackers. haha

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