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Wildlife Safety While Cooking and Dining Outdoors

Wildlife Safety While Cooking and Dining Outdoors

Cooking and dining in the great outdoors is one of life's simple pleasures. However, sharing the wilderness with wildlife means we must take precautions to ensure both our safety and the well-being of the animals. Here's how to enjoy your culinary adventures under the open sky while keeping wildlife disturbances to a minimum.

Understand the Area

Before you set up camp or start cooking, familiarize yourself with the local wildlife. Research or ask park rangers about the animals you might encounter and their behavior patterns. Knowing if you're in bear country, for example, can significantly influence how you store food and dispose of waste.

Store Food Securely

Animals have keen senses of smell and can be attracted to your food from miles away. Use bear-proof containers or hang your food, trash, and any other scented items (like toothpaste or soap) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from tree trunks. In some areas, bear boxes are provided and should be used to store food items securely.

Cook and Eat Away from Your Sleeping Area

Prepare and enjoy your meals at least 100 yards from where you plan to sleep. This distance helps prevent attracting wildlife to your sleeping area. After cooking, thoroughly clean all cooking utensils and surfaces to remove food residues.

Minimize Odors

To further reduce the risk of wildlife encounters, minimize odors during and after cooking. Seal uneaten food in airtight containers. Use unscented cleaning products, and never wash dishes or cookware directly in streams or lakes as this can attract animals and contaminate water sources.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Never leave food scraps or garbage behind. Use designated trash receptacles if available. If you're in a remote area without facilities, pack all trash and leftovers to dispose of them properly once you return to civilization. Organic waste, such as fruit peels or nut shells, also attracts wildlife and should not be buried or left outdoors.

Be Cautious with Fire

Campfires can attract curious wildlife. Keep your fire at a manageable size, never leave it unattended, and fully extinguish it before turning in for the night or leaving the site. Ensure all burnt food particles are cleaned up and disposed of properly.

Know What to Do in an Encounter

Despite taking precautions, wildlife encounters can still happen. Familiarize yourself with how to behave if you encounter various animals. Generally, making yourself appear large, making noise, and slowly backing away can help deter animals like bears or mountain lions. However, specific advice varies by species, so know the guidelines for the wildlife in your area.

Respect Wildlife

Remember, when you're cooking and dining outdoors, you're a guest in the natural habitat of many creatures. Observing wildlife from a distance, not feeding them, and respecting their environment are crucial to keeping both you and the animals safe.


Outdoor cooking and dining are delightful ways to connect with nature, but it's essential to do so responsibly. By taking precautions to minimize wildlife disturbances, you ensure a safer experience for yourself and protect the natural behaviors and habitats of the animals. Enjoy the wilderness, but remember to leave it as wild and pristine as you found it.

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