Boondocking Basics

Learn the core concepts of off-grid camping, boondocking, and overnight parking

Will I Get Attacked by Wild Animals When Boondocking?

Will I Get Attacked by Wild Animals When Boondocking?


Generally, no, you will not get attached by wild animals when boondocking. This is a myth perpetuated by movies and TV shows for drama and laughs.

Boondocking deep in the California desert at dusk.

Will I Get Attacked by Wild Animals When Boondocking?

It’s rare to have a wild animal attack you at your campsite. Most animals you’ll encounter at your campsite are squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. At night, there will be rats, raccoons, and opossums going through your campsite looking for scraps. However, these animals are also present at RV parks and developed campgrounds.

RV Parks Are More Prone to Wild Animals than Boondocking

Wild animals invading your camp is a bigger problem at RV parks and developed campgrounds because there’s more trash laying around. There are also more people who try to feed these animals. These animals learn to come to these places each night expecting another free meal. As more animals come in, it creates more competition, and that’s where the trouble starts. Meanwhile, animals deep inside forests and deserts, who have never gotten a free meal from a human, tend to stay away over their concerns for safety.

What About Bears and Mountain Lions?

Having a bear, mountain lion, wolf, coyote, python, or pack of wild boars, break down your RV door and get into your pantry is unheard of out on open, public lands. This is a myth perpetuated by movies and TV shows for entertainment. You’re more likely to have this happen in crowded national parks, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, where thousands of people leave their food and trash unguarded.

Otherwise, carnivorous animals that live far away from crowded RV parks and campgrounds do not gather themselves around your RV or vehicle and wait for you to come out. They’re instead going to be more concerned about their own safety and try to stay away from you.

Black bear is the most common bear you will see in the Lower 48 states. These bears focus on berries and grubs and are not going to attack you. If you leave your trash outside, they may tear it open. If you make a habit of leaving your trash outside, more of them will come each night. The more bears that come around, the more competition it creates. There are just not that many places in the Lower 48 where you will find Grizzly. For more discussion on bears, see, “Do I Have to Worry About Bears When Boondocking“?

Will Coyotes and Wolves Attack Me While Camping?

You may hear coyotes and wolves howling at night. But strangely enough, on most open, public lands where you find dispersed camping, it’s rare to encounter this too. Many boondockers consider it a rare blessing to camp somewhere they can hear the cries of distant coyotes. Most of the time you’ll hear very little at all. Movies and television shows tend create a false sense of reality, implying that wolves and coyotes are constantly watching you and following you. The truth is that coyotes and wolves are more concerned with finding wild game, and never wander into your camp.

Will Vampire Bats Suck My Blood?

Maybe, if you’re camping where there are both vampire bats and cattle. But this is very rare too. Vampire bats tend to follow herds of free-ranging cattle. If you happen to be standing inside a herd of cattle in the middle of the night, you might find a vampire bat landing on you.

There’s a pretty good chance you will never, ever see a vampire bat in the wild, in your lifetime. 90% of the bats you see are going after flying insects. The other 10% are going after fruit hanging on trees. Despite what you see depicted in movies and TV shows, bats to do not land on you and they don’t not attack your camp.

Will Grazing Cattle Charge at Me?

There is a lot of BLM and US Forest Service lands where ranchers have grazing rights. You are still free to boondock on these lands. You may find cattle wandering into your camp. Generally, they don’t attack unless provoked, and it often takes a lot to provoke them. Cows themselves won’t charge at you, but bulls will.

If cattle wander into your camp, don’t pet them, don’t feed them, and don’t interact with them. A bull may take offense to you interfering with one of his cows and charge at you. Just sit at your camp or go inside your RV, and enjoy watching them.

Will I Get Bit by Poisonous Spiders and Scorpions?

Poisonous insects like Scorpions and spiders may be found on open, public lands, but they also exist in RV parks and paid campgrounds. They rarely enter your RV, as long as you take reasonable steps to preventing creepy-crawlies from finding their way in. If anything, don’t leave your shoes outside at night.

Read, “How to Keep Bugs From Getting Into Your RV“.

Rattlesnakes and Camping

Rattlesnakes are the most common wild animal you may have to be concerned with when camping. Rattlesnakes are seasonal in that they hibernate during the colder part of the year. If you’re camping in the desert during the winter, you’re not going to see a rattlesnake. But during the Spring, Summer, and Fall, yes you may see one.

However, snakes rarely wander into a campsite. They’re mostly looking for rodents and ground-dwelling birds. If you can keep your trash well contained, and keep scraps of food off the ground, you’ll minimize the number of mice, chipmunks, and rats wandering around. It’s advisable to keep a rattlesnake bite kit in your RV, and to get your dog vaccinated against rattlesnake venom.

Insect Bites Are Probably the Biggest Problem

Getting bit by a tick is a reasonable concern, but not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Just like with mosquitoes, not all of them carry malaria. Read more about how to prevent ticks from coming into your camp, and how to keep mosquitoes outside of your RV.

The bigger concern is your dog or cat catching fleas and ticks when wandering outside. Make sure to keep your pets protected using prescription medicines such as Bravecto or Symparica. Don’t rely on over-the-counter flea and tick repellents, they are very weak, and don’t hold up to wide varieties of disease-carrying insects that permeate the country.

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