Question Of The Week

16 Wild, Wilder, and Wildest Wildlife Encounters

Many of us visit national and provincial parks in hopes of seeing wildlife.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a black bear in the back country, or a moose loose in the boondocks?  Yeah, that’s what we want to see – a big hairy beast in the boonies!  Your camera is ready.  Bring out the free roaming untamed animals.  Enough with the chipmunks already.

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

This week’s Question of the Week was, “What’s the wildest wild animal encounter you’ve experienced while truck camping?”

 Bear claw on Northstar Camper

“While camping on the North Slope of Alaska, roughly five miles south of Deadhorse, I was awoken by my whole camper rocking back and forth.  I looked out the window to see a mama bear and two cubs.

I started banging on the wall of the camper and they lost interest, but not before damaging the door of a storage compartment.  There was no food in there, only spare fuel.

Bears close to Northstar Camper

Luckily, the bears and I went about our day unharmed.  I was very happy to have a hard wall camper that day.” – Chris Tiefenbrunn, 2016 Ram 3500, 2016 Northstar Arrow U

“Last year we drove to Alaska and stayed in Denali National Park.  We got out of the camper to go for an evening walk.  As we stepped out of our camper about 30 feet from us was a momma moose and her calf walking through the campground.  Everyone stayed very quiet just snapping pictures.  The two moose just kept walking through the campground on their evening stroll.” – Victoria Buie, 2007 Dodge 3500, 2012 Lance 1050S

Oliver after antelope

“While boondocking in Wyoming one afternoon, we saw an antelope stop by our camp, look over his shoulder, and then trot off another 200 yards and stop again.

He was followed about a minute later by our hound dog, Oliver, who was trying his best to keep up with the fleet footed animal.  Although the pair appeared to be playing tag, the antelope knew he was in complete control.

The game lasted until our Oliver finally came home dog tired, and slept under our camper for the rest of the day.  He didn’t chase any antelope for the rest of the trip.” – Rex N., 2015 Ram 5500, 2015, Alpenlite, 11.5-foot

Elk bugling outside camper

“Cooking dinner is usually pretty uneventful, but not on the night of September 5th, 2017.  We were at our usual dinner spot in Banff, Alberta; a quiet city park on the outskirts of town, away from the tourist hustle.

Elk Rock Resolution

As dusk arrived, and the light dwindled, we noticed a herd of elk slowly surrounding us.  Several cow and calf elks filled in the grassy field next to us.  Then came the king, the ruler of the herd; a huge bull elk that was guarding his harem and bugling (calling) loudly.  We soon learned that rut (mating) season was in full swing.

We were forced to retreat inside the camper as the bull elk was running all around us, loudly vocalizing his dominance and stomping his hooves.  Bull elk can be notoriously dangerous, and this was not one we wanted to mess with.

Elk outside Lance camper

It was absolutely amazing getting to witness these creatures up close, and thankfully from the safety of our truck camper.  As it became fully dark and the herd had wandered off, we heard a large commotion in the near distance.  Elk crying out as wolves barked and howled, all from the same location.  We could only image what just took place.  The cycle of life unfolding before us.” – Scott and Johanna Cameron, 2003 Ford F350, 2000 Lance Lite 915

“Normally all of our camping adventures are quiet and relaxing.  We enjoy kayaking, hiking, or just sitting around the campsite and enjoying the peace and quiet.

We have been to some pretty wild places in Alberta and thought our trip to Wabasso Campground in Jasper National Park would be no different.

At 4:00pm on the day in question, my wife was feeling tired and decided to lay down for a nap with our three cats.  Our three cats are normally outside on their leashes.  Since I was not interested in swatting mosquitoes, I decided to sit inside the camper and read.  It was a nice sunny day; very peaceful and quiet.

After approximately a half hour, I heard an almost imperceptible snap of a twig.  The sound caused me to look outside the screen door of the camper.  I immediately locked eyes with a 300 pound black bear about 20 feet away from the screen door.

Bear two Bigfoot Camper

He stopped when he saw me.  I then opened the door and started yelling and making a bunch of noise to scare it away.  His ears went back.  After 30 seconds he very reluctantly started to move away.  I could see that he was deciding whether or not to leave but thankfully he did.

I believe this bear is going to be a serious problem for some camper in the not too distant future and told the warden when he appeared about 15 minutes later.  My wife, of course, woke up during the commotion and saw most of what happened.

Bear one

What did I learn?

First of all, I was lucky this time.  I shudder to think of the mess I would have been in if I had been outside with three leashed cats and 20 feet from the back of my camper.  Never again.  I will be prepared for the future.

Secondly, for as large as these animals get, they are extremely quiet when they move and they are adept at blending in with their surroundings.  When it left our campsite, it went approximately 20 feet from where I first saw it the bear.  At that short distance, the bear disappeared into the shadows of the forest.  I knew where it was but could not clearly see it.

Third, this will not change our destinations.  We will continue to camp wherever we want.  However, we will be more vigilant and will always have something very close at hand for defense.  No radios or music either as we normally keep a quiet and clean campsite and appreciate the sounds of the forest.

By the way, there was nothing by way of an attractant outside in our campsite.  Our site was clean as a whistle.  Maybe the bear smelled our cats inside the camper – who knows?” – Lyle Tremblay, 2004 GMC 3500, 2006 Bigfoot 25C9.4

Wyoming Moose Crossing Fence

“Just last week we were driving on Wyoming 14A high in the Bighorn mountains when all of a sudden an enormous moose came running down the sage covered mountain to cross in front of our barely stopped truck.

We had been watching for moose in the watery, willow growth areas but did not expect to see one coming from a high mountain side.  We wanted to see it jump over a fence but it simply walked over it.  That was one tall moose.” – Laurel Wilson, 2013 Ford F350, 2016 Four Wheel Granby Shell 

“If memory serves me correctly, it was during the early 1970s while I was surf fishing on New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park.  A small wren type bird landed on the beach near me and began spinning around in a crazy fashion.  Then another, followed by another and within minutes there was an invasion of hundreds of the same type of bird.

The birds landed on the beach, sat on the back of beach chairs, flew into the side of the camper, sat on my hat while on my head, and perched on the tips of fishing rods.  They acted really strange, appeared exhausted, and hung around for about an hour before they began to slowly depart.

A few days later I was with some folks from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game and relayed my recent Island Beach experience.  I found the explanation I received interesting.

There had been a couple of weeks of strong westerly winds while these birds were migrating.  The winds blew the birds much further out over the ocean than they would normally travel.  When the winds subsided, the birds had an extremely long distance to fly to be able to land.  Hence, disorientation and exhaustion.

A few years later a similar thing occurred except this time it was hundreds of beautiful Monarch butterflies dropping all around me at the waters edge.  Once again, with a period of rest they flew away.  The marvels of the outdoors always amaze.” – Bob Lick, 2003 Dodge 3500, 1993 Alpenlite 11-foot SK

Bison in Yellowstone

“At the time we owned a 1997 Weekender truck camper by Skyline.  Our visit was at an end, so we were heading out of Yellowstone.

I was pulling out of one of the geysers checking both ways.  A bus stopped in the far lane.  So we made the right turn and almost hit a bison.

The bisom looked pissed at us but he walked alongside.  I could have reached out and touched him.  I spoke softly saying, “You stay in your lane and I’ll just stay here”.

All he did was walk along the left lane, so I hugged the right shoulder to go around him.  I kept thinking, “Stay over there” over and over.” – James Tedford, 2012 Dodge Ram 3500HD, Adventurer 116DS

“This could have happened to any camper since it happened in a campground.  I’ve been truck camping almost my whole life and I have never heard anyone else who had a similar experience.

The campground is a beautiful forestry campground near an amazing mountain lake.  It’s called Suzanne Lake and it’s in British Columbia, Canada.  There are only eight primitive spots and two pit toilets.  It’s user-maintained for the most part.

It was about 10:00pm, pitch black, and silent as there was a fire ban so every camper was inside their units.  I had to use the bathroom, so off I went to the nearest outhouse, headlight on.

This information is relevant – the step up to the wooden floor is at least 12-inches and the height was something I’d forgotten when leaving after my first trip, nearly resulting in me falling on my face.

I went in, closed the door, and dropped my pants.  Sorry for the TMI: first I peed and then I heard a *sniff sniff*.  Thinking it was just a dog in the bush behind me, I continued.  Another *sniff sniff* and then I realized the sound was not coming from the bushes behind me.

With the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, I slowly turned my head to the left and there was nothing there.  Then to the right and there was nothing in the outhouse with me.  A third *sniff sniff* confirmed my worst fear that there was something alive in the pit.  It was too late to turn back, so I dropped my logs, wiped quickly, stood up and get my pants up.

Then I very slowly peered into the darkness below, where I saw a skunk.  Oh crap, I just pooped on a skunk!

I dropped the lid and practically ran out the door, only just remembering the big drop.  I packed up the cat’s playpen for fear of the skunk getting in there and smelling the cat’s food.  Then, I went back in the camper.

When my husband asked what I’d been doing I said I was cleaning up because I just pooped on a skunk.  I repeated it three times and he didn’t believe me.  Who would?

The next morning, my husband went to the outhouse to check and the skunk is still there!  We took a piece of cardboard, made a sign saying not to use that outhouse, and taped it so it blocked the opening of the door.  I contacted British Columbia forestry and they promised to send someone out to try to get the skunk out (not a job I envy) and close up whatever hole the skunk got in so that it didn’t happen again.

Going back to the reason I mentioned the big step.  Once I figured out what I’d pooped on, I ran through all the worst case scenario thoughts.  One of them was that the skunk had been in the building rather than the pit or sprayed straight up when I peed.  I could only imagine how terrible it would have been if that had happened because I probably would have then fallen out of the outhouse, knocked myself head first into a tree and crapped myself.  I would have been found face down in the bush, pants around my ankles, covered in crap, and skunk spray.

I do not have any photos of this wild animal encounter!” – Melissa Malejko, 2002 Chev Silverado 2500HD, 1981 Okanagan

cliff bear

“There are 15,000 bears in Colorado, so maybe our encounter was inevitable.  It happened on an extremely hot day, despite the 10,200 foot elevation, on our remote mountain property.  Cheri and I often truck camped there.  We experienced many wildlife sightings including deer and elk, but never a bear, until…

I was in the camper editing some photos.  My view out the rear door covered a 50 foot path that led to a dense grove of aspen.  Cheri was standing between the Lance and a steep drop-off where she was brushing her teeth.  It was such a refreshing activity that she broke the afternoon stillness with a loud exclamation of, “Ahhhhh!”

The sudden outcry was so alarming that it unnerved a curious 300 pound black bear that had crept to within just a few feet of Cheri’s blind side.  When I heard the shout, I glanced out the rear door just in time to see the intruder hightail it down the path for the cover of the trees.

I then hollered, “Bear!” to Cheri and urged her to get in the camper.  Wow, it doesn’t get much closer than that!  All in all, an exciting event in our truck camping adventures.  On the other hand, our faithful retriever slept through everything.” – John Cook, 2006 Ford F250, 1994 Lance Squire

“While camping at Mesa Verde National Park, my two kids started yelling outside one morning about seeing a rattlesnake.  I came out of the camper expecting them to have misnamed some less dramatic snake or maybe seeing a rattler down the road.  Nope.

There was decent sized rattler snuggled up inside the rim of the rear wheel.  I was hoping he would decide to find a quieter place to hang out, but he thought my wheel was a fine place.  My second thought was to start the truck to see if that would send him on his way, but he seemed to treat that like a massage and draped himself through the holes in the rim and through the rim of the inner wheel on my dually.

Since I didn’t want to squish him I couldn’t just drive away.  I fetched a couple young maintenance guys who were mowing nearby to call a ranger to help relocate the snake. Those guys thought it was a better plan to poke at the snake with a long stick.  That darn snake was so relaxed that he still wasn’t fazed and had no plans on leaving.

So one of the guys hooked the stick around a coil and flung him across our campsite where he got stuck on a branch way up in a tree.  He dangled there for a minute before falling. I’m sure that was not in the maintenance training book.  Poor snake…” – Darcy Hubbard, 2014 Ram 3500, 1998 Lance Legend

Lots of bison crossing road

“In the Yukon we had to wait while a herd of bison wandered all over the road.  We were not upset by this wait.

Bear butt

Also in the Yukon we took pictures of grizzly bears eating wildflowers by the side of the road.

Bear in the Yukon

We did not exit the truck.” – Judi Sutherland, 2015 Ford F350, 2014 Adventurer 86SBS

“In early October 2014, I was bouncing around western Wyoming camping out of my 2002 Starcraft Lonestar pop-up truck camper and 2011 Chevy Silverado.  I was in the Tetons area and my plan was to stop for the night at Teton RV and then travel south to Flaming Gorge.

Teton RV was closed and undergoing a change of ownership so I kept going south toward Dubois.  I am always on the lookout for nice camping spots for future use and looked at a nice spot a ways out of town that was closed for the season, but open to pack-in, pack-out type camping.

While I was looking things over I spotted a bull moose in the area.  I was really tempted to camp there, but I really needed a shower.  So I went down to the KOA in Dubois; a quiet, nice, clean campground right on the Wind River.

After my shower I ran into the owner and got to talking with her.  I mentioned where I had seen the moose and she said that it was a very nice spot.  She also told me that a photographer had been killed by a bear there.

I went on down to Flaming Gorge for a number of days and then back tracked to Dubois.  I decided to spend a night at my newly found spot with the moose and, supposedly, the killer bear.

There was not another person around, so I enjoyed a campfire and headed to bed.  I was in that partly asleep, partly awake mode and became aware of something very large moving very fast near the camper.  All that was rushing though my mind was that a bear was going to be coming through the canvas in a second.

Then I heard a loud crash not far from the camper and let out a soft, “Thank God” as I recognized the crash as two bull moose fighting.  They spared a little more and then there was silence.  After a jolt like that it took me hours to get to sleep.

It was getting to be time to update campers.  After the killer grizzly that turned out to be two moose, I decided to go with a hard side truck camper.  At times I miss the closer to nature aspect of the pop-up, but sure do like the security of my Lance.” – Terry Gfeller, 2015 Ram 2500, 2013 Lance 865

buffalo next to Arctic Fox Camper

“This just happened after we viewed the eclipse a few weeks ago.  We drove up to Alliance, Nebraska from Colorado and then on to the Badlands National Park.  We camped in a free camping area with mostly tents, and just a few campers.

There we met a couple from New Zealand.  We were having a few beers with them sitting alongside their camper when we saw a herd of about 100 buffalo in the distance.

The buffalo were grazing and heading our way into the camping area.  All the campers were taking pictures as they stayed next to their tents and cars.  We were sitting in our chairs next to the camper and they came within ten feet of us.  Someone spooked them and they turned and ran back in direction they came from.  That is when the realization kicked in.  The rangers say to stay at least 100 feet away.

buffalo close to campsite

When they got spooked, the buffalo turned on a dime.  The power they had and the noise they made was incredible.  Luckily they only went about 50 yards and stopped, so they didn’t run over any tents.

Then they started grazing toward our camper and around the perimeter of the camping area.  We didn’t feel any danger since we weren’t being aggressive and they were the ones on the move.  But, things can change in a second and they could cause a lot of damage or worse.” – Frank Niehus, 2007 Ford F350, Arctic Fox 1150

Moose in Chicken, Alaska

“We’ve had numerous animal encounters while traveling, from turkeys pecking for bugs on the camper stairs and mosquitos finding a way in to the camper to attack us, to bears or bison crossing the road causing traffic to stop or a coyote in the brush behind the campsite. Our 2 favorites stories involve moose.

The first was on a visit to Chicken, Alaska.  We had just parked our camper in a dirt lot and I was walking around the rig while Chuck went in to open the slides. I heard a sound and turned around and noticed a moose browsing on trees. I told Chuck and we both watched her for quite awhile – she only moved on when another tourist started chasing her with his camera.

Moose in Chicken, Alaska

Above: Two juvenile moose in a pond in Palmer, Alaska

The other moose encounter was in Palmer, Alaska. The owner of the campground came around advising those of us there that there were several juvenile moose splashing in the pond on the backside of the property. The moose were using the pond to cool off and escape the flies and mosquitos in the woods. The campground owner advised a few people who were standing out in the open that they should move back behind some trees and vehicles for safety, in case the moose charged them.

Moose charging from pond in Palmer, Alaska

Above: The charging moose

Shortly after he told us, one of the moose did turn towards our group and give a short charge before turning and heading back in to the woods.” – Chuck and Jodie Ramsey, 2012 Chevy Silverado, 2014 Adventurer 116DS

Lots of readers also shared their wildlife stories on Facebook.  Check them out!

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