Dealing with wildlife when camping

By: David Cook

Attempting to keep the wildlife at bay is just a part of the camping life.

Dealing with wildlife when camping
I’ll grant you that the spiders, scorpions, numerous snakes, oceanic stingers of all descriptions and all manner of aggressive herbivores — from cassowaries to kangaroos — can be seen as pretty unfriendly at times, but really, should we, as campers, be worried?

The Australian bush is a wonderful place. In most parts of the world, you struggle to get out of sight of other people, and it is certainly hard to find many other places where you can see animals in the wild and not really worry about being eaten on the spot.

Of course, I’m pretending that saltwater crocs don’t exist, nor sharks, nor large, escaped zoo and circus animals, nor yowies, bunyips or drop bears. But really, with those minor exceptions aside, this country is much safer than fear-riddled Pommie backpackers would like to think.

I’ll grant you that the spiders, scorpions, numerous snakes, oceanic stingers of all descriptions and all manner of aggressive herbivores — from cassowaries to kangaroos — can be seen as pretty unfriendly at times, but really, should we, as campers, be worried?

I say, NO!

I’m more concerned about the pesky little critters that can destroy a good camping holiday: the flies, mosquitoes, ticks, locusts, even the mice when they’re in plague proportions.


Despite their cute appearance, even big dopey things like wombats are a bloody nuisance when you’re trying to get to sleep and this lump of fur is scratching itself on the outside of your camper. You’ve got to get up from your warm bed to go out and shout at it, and it just ignores you. It will go on shaking your humble abode until you get the shovel, lodge the handle in between the camper and the beast, and lever it away until it ambles off, completely indifferent to you and your concerns. Then it will wait in the ferns for you to settle back into bed before lumbering over to start up again.

But while the average marsupial might be an annoyance, I really do get fed up with the bugs. The mosquitoes, I can understand. The ladies need my blood to feed their eggs, but there is nothing more frustrating than when they squeeze in around your screens any time you go in or out of the camper and then buzz around your head to keep you awake, before biting into your flesh when exhaustion finally takes your consciousness.


Though many don’t actually bite, flies are worse than mosquitoes. During the day, they flock around your face, in your ears, eyes and mouth. I had one that went in my mouth and got up the back of my nose a few weeks ago. It took me an hour of snorting and blowing to dislodge the little rat. Let me tell you, having a fly hoofing about inside your face is no fun. For the record, it went out over the back and down my throat, so the cure was not much better than the problem.


I’ve written to the CSIRO to suggest a surface spray for the face that won’t cause tumours and will keep the bugs at bay. This would be one of the greatest boons to mankind. It can’t be that hard and I’m surprised they haven’t realised the significance or commercial possibilities of such a development.

It would ideally be able to repel those large fluttering things that flock to your lights at night, as well as the little gritty bugs that also appear in the night and walk around on your face, especially when it’s hot, before they progress to the rest of your body.

Spiders, of course, would be included. I have a family of huntsman spiders living in my camper. Each year, we find at least one adult skulking about in the canvas and we will often find the littlies scurrying about. I know they’re not supposed to be dangerous, but the thought of a huntsman having sport on my things while I sleep or walking over me while I’m unconscious, gives me the creeps. I know they will eat some of the other bugs I would like to be rid of, but that’s not an acceptable excuse. The fact that they throw away the dead carcases after they’ve sucked out all the juices is another negative, since they end up in the camper anyway.


Ants are another no-no. I keep finding them in the camper. Once I found an army of them walking along and climbing up a wheel, trying to make a nest in our camper while we were down the coast. I sprayed so much insecticide on the wheel to stop them that it dissolved the grease in the bearings and I had to repack them before we could leave.

If the task of tackling all insects seems too large for the boffins in the white coats then they can limit themselves to flies, mosquitoes, spiders and ants, and fleas and ticks as well. Ticks are a damn nuisance. And chuck in wasps and other nasty, bitey things.

After all this, you’d think I disliked insects, but I don’t, I truly don’t. I just wish they’d leave me alone. My wish is that they were just a little smarter than they obviously are and that, as such, they would know I mean business when I put the heads of their fallen comrades on little sticks around my camp. It hasn’t worked yet, but I keep trying.

If you come to visit my camp, don’t knock over the sticks.

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