We all love camping. The fun of sleeping in a tent under the stars, fresh air, and cooking over an open campfire. However, nature already has residents living in it, and many of them will want your tasty food as soon as they smell it! Here is a list of helpful hints that can give you a little more defense against our furry friends when camping at North Texas Jellystone Park™.

If an animal can’t smell your food, it won’t get your food!

Animals have an extremely keen sense of smell, especially when it comes to food. When you are preparing for your trip, be sure that all your foodstuffs are in tightly sealed bags or containers.  Good quality zipper-lock bags are usually the perfect size for sandwiches or trail mix, and they hold in the smell when sealed properly. If you are bringing meat with you to cook on a grill, wrap it tightly in cling wrap and then place in a large zipping bag. Only get your food out when you are about to eat it or prepare it! Food left sitting out while you do other preparations around your camp is a quick easy target for furry and feathered thieves! They are quicker than you might think.

It’s OK to smell like the great outdoors.

It is not just food smells that attract critters to a campsite. Any smell that is not native to an area and is especially strong in nature has the potential to attract creatures. Animals are curious and will want to investigate what has come into their realm. Try wearing unscented deodorants if you must wear it at all and avoid colognes and perfumes. Sweet or flowery smells are a sure way to draw in mosquitos or other insects. Even soap smells can attract wild animals. Be sure and seal up soaps or other deodorants in airtight bags when not in use. Also avoid using scented candles, unless they are citronella.

If an animal cannot see your food, it won’t get it.

Many people assume that food sitting in a cooler, box, or sometimes even grocery bags are just fine sitting out at the campsite. The problem is, you are probably not the first person to have camped where you are staying; the animals here may have experienced other campers. Wild animals have the capacity to learn, and some will know that that big red box, those crinkly bags, or colorful little cardboard boxes probably contain food. Make sure you keep all such items out of sight until you are going to use them. Leave them in the car or put everything in one cooler and cover it with a blanket. If you advertise that you have the food, there will definitely be fuzzy customers coming to get it!

Keep the fire going.

Try to keep a fire going if you are camping out overnight. Wild animals have a natural built-in sense to fear fire and are unlikely to approach one. Perhaps have one person sit up late to keep the fire going and have another head to bed early so they can get up early and take over keeping the flames stoked. Always make sure someone is awake and watching the fire. Never leave a campfire going with no one watching it. Be sure and have plenty of kindling a firewood ready before the sun sets so you won’t have to leave it unattended at any time.

Make some noise.

Something as simple as a radio playing can be a deterrent to animal intruders. Often times they only wander up to an area because they don’t hear anything and assume no human is around. It doesn’t need to be loud, just noise. Music or even talk radio will do fine. Light classical music at a low volume, while you sleep, will keep them at bay and still allow you to sleep soundly.

Do food prep and store trash well away from your camp.

Let’s face it, even if your super careful, food residue or trash may wind up happening. To avoid this becoming an issue while you sleep, make sure to get a fair distance away from your camp when making meals or eating. If you eat in your or near your tents or bedrolls, you increase the chances to being awakened by an unpleasant surprise, be it a hungry curious raccoon or a swarm of ants. Be sure you clean up the best you can, and if possible seal trash in airtight bags or containers, stored away from the main camp.

Pick a good spot to camp!

The best way to keep animals away from your campsite is to pick an ideal place to camp. Choose a flat, open area with low or no grass to keep snakes and bugs away. An open area will also protect you in case an animal wanders in. Enclosed areas can make them feel trapped and cause aggression. Find a spot at a distance from any trails, since animals use them as well as humans. If you can find a place with a constant breeze, that will help keep insects away. The easiest way to do this is stay somewhere with already existing campsites, such as North Texas Jellystone Park™!

Believe it or not: Fabric softener sheets.

Many animals hate the fragrant odor of those fabric softener sheets you toss into the dryer, and they can also disguise the smell of food. Bring along a few boxes and the place the sheets everywhere — in your tent, cooler, backpacks and sleeping bags. Even mosquitos in some regions are driven away by these. Make sure you only use new ones that haven’t been in the dryer yet. This is the only exception to the “don’t bring unnatural scents into the woods” rule.

Some natural ingredients that will repel a variety of creatures.

Coffee grounds, Garlic, Sulfur, Lavender, Rosemary, Apple cider vinegar, Ammonia, Cayenne pepper, Black pepper, Citrus. Raccoons especially hate cayenne and black pepper. Most creatures do not like Ammonia. Scorpions are repelled by Lavender. Snakes avoid sulfur. Rosemary works against mosquitos. Many small furry creatures dislike garlic. Al simple items that can be obtained at most grocery stores.

Know which animals you’ll encounter and plan accordingly.

It’s unlikely you’ll run into mountain lions or moose while camping in North Texas, but you might have to deal with mice or raccoons. To find out which animals live in the environment where you’ll be camping, call the local Forest Service, BLM station, or camping site and ask. Sure, you could jump on the internet and do some research (and a quick Google search usually brings up lots of useful tips), but nothing can replace good local knowledge from the people who constantly deal with these critters. The folks at North Texas Jellystone Park™ will likely warn you about a crazy bear who likes to steal pi-a-nic baskets.