Does Music Scare or Attract Wild Life?


Although there are plenty of things you can do during a wilderness camping trip, most people consider bringing along Bluetooth speakers to play a little music to lighten the mood. After all, what better way is there to pass the time than singing along to your favorite songs around the evening campfire? However, one thing worth considering before you pack your tunes is whether music will scare or attract wildlife around your campsite.

Often, music will deter wildlife, such as bears, wolves, and bobcats. However, there is no guarantee that they will avoid descending on your campsite. Some animals are accustomed to human activity and noises and may be more inclined to visit should you attract them with other things like food.  

In the remainder of this article, we’ll discuss how music can scare or attract wildlife to a campsite and whether it’s worth playing in the middle of the woods. In addition, we’ll review steps you should take should any noises (music or not) attract creatures to your camp. 

Brown bear
Photo 135937513 © Gabi Uhrova – Dreamstime.com

Music’s Effect on Animals?

When it comes to wilderness camping most animals won’t be accustomed to music. Different types of animals, as well as their temperaments, can play a part in whether they develop curiosity over the sound of music or steer clear of it. Some domestic animals, such as dogs and birds, may enjoy music in a way like that of human beings, while other wild creatures such as bears or raccoons may not.  

Many wild creatures, in fact, may most often be repelled by music and other loud noises, rather than be attracted by them. However, loud music will not always deter these creatures, so it is imperative that you’re prepared for any type of animal encounter. 

Should You Play Music While Hiking?

It is not illegal to play music while hiking; however, it is somewhat of an etiquette issue because it can ruin the experience for other people that are attempting to enjoy the outdoors. Other hikers might enjoy the serenity they find in the sound of nature, and bird watchers need the quiet to not scare away the birds.

If you want to enjoy your music on a trail, then be sure to bring headphones with you.  Just be sure to leave one ear away from the music so that you can listen to what is going on around you.

If you simply want to use the music as a form of deterrence against wildlife on a trail, there are better options. Things such as mace or even bear spray are often a better method for protection against anything that you fear could harm you.  

Can I Play Music at My Campsite?

So long as you take into consideration that other nearby campers may not appreciate your music, you should be okay with playing music at your campsite. 

The critical thing to remember when at a campsite is that sound carries in the wilderness.  So you just need to make sure that you don’t play your music too loud.  If you have a camper or an RV, you can also choose to listen to your music inside so that you don’t disturb other campers. Many campgrounds will have set times when noise restrictions are implemented.

What Will Scare Animals Away in the Wild?

Often, animals are much more afraid of humans and loud music than we are of them and will only fight back when backed into a corner.  However, there are some instances when the opposite is true; for this reason, it is essential to know what noises can deter wildlife from entering your campsite, if not music.  

  • Air Horns – According to New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, using air horns can scare a curious bear away. 
  • Bear Bells – Believe it or not, the simple jingling of a set of bear bells is a commonly used deterrent to clear the path ahead of bears and other animals. As a notification that someone is approaching the bells work to alert animals of your proximity to them.
  • Pots & Pans – You may not have pots and pans readily available on every camping trip, but if you do have them on hand, hitting a few of them together is disruptive enough of a noise to deter a bear and other wild animals. 
  • Other Noises – If you don’t happen to have an air horn handy, don’t worry. There are plenty of other loud noises bears dislike, such as yelling, singing, and clapping. 

A word of caution: While these noisy deterrents are said to work, be mindful of other campers around you. Don’t make more noises than necessary, and only do so if you end up encountering a wild animal. In addition, don’t forget that other, more docile animals live nearby too. You don’t want to disrupt their environment if you can help it. 

How Do I Protect Myself from Animals?

Taking precautions, such as choosing a campsite carefully and keeping that campsite clean helps prevent most animals from getting too curious and wandering into the area in the first place. There are typically tell tale signs that large animals have been around including paw marks on the ground, flattened grasses and large scat piles.

Choose Your Camping Location Wisely

One way you can prevent unwanted wildlife from entering your camp is by choosing your camping location carefully. First, make sure you investigate the campsite you are going to be staying in and learn what animals you could encounter. 

For example, if you are in a heavily wooded area, common wildlife you might see can range from mosquitoes to snakes and bears. Being right on the water may raise your risk of seeing these same creatures. 

When choosing a campsite, try to select an open flat area with low grass. The short grass is less likely to attract snakes and bugs. Selecting an open flat area also keeps any animals that wander into your campsite from feeling trapped, as animals that feel trapped could become fearful and aggressive.  

Once you have chosen a campsite, there are other measures you can take to minimize the risk of wildlife interaction. 

Use Scent Repellents

There are even a variety of scents you can use to repel particular creatures:

  • In the case of mosquitoes, coffee grounds, citronella candles, garlic, lavender, and rosemary repel them. 
  • Much like mosquitoes, raccoons also do not like the smell of garlic. They are also known to be repelled by the scent of spices like cayenne pepper and black pepper.  
  • Both snakes and mosquitoes do not like the smell of ammonia. 
  • Bears are not often repelled by scents; however, citrus or ammonia scents paired with flashing lights and loud or high pitched noises can deter bears from entering your campground. 

Keep Bear Mace on Hand

In extreme cases in which deterrents don’t help, there are some other items you can use when all other options have failed. For example, bear mace (Amazon) is a last-ditch effort to spray in the face of a bear that may be trying to attack you.  

Note: If you would like more information about how to protect yourself from specific animals and how to avoid their attacks altogether, be sure to check out Outdoor Life’s article about surviving animal attacks.  

Store Food Properly

Because animals most often will want to wander into your campground for food, you must know how to store and discard food as well as food waste properly.  For example, a bear’s sense of smell is far greater than our own, so they can smell meat cooking from miles away.  For this reason, it is wise to pack freeze-dried food and resealable snacks whenever possible. 

Don’t ever leave food unattended, and if you are camping inside of a tent, you should not eat inside it because the smell can linger.  You should also remember to be extremely clean: pick up after yourself as soon as you are done eating. Always double-check and make sure that everything is packed away before you go to bed. 

For ways to help clean up and prevent the chances of animals visiting your campsite check out our post on How To Wash Dishes While Backpacking.

Be sure that it is not only food you are putting away but rather everything you have laid out throughout the day. Things such as containers, chairs, toothpaste, etc. can also be recognized by bears and other animals that will destroy your items in search of food. This helps to guarantee that your campsite will smell more like nature and less like treats for wildlife friends.

Conclusion

In conclusion, camping is a great experience that is meant to help people enjoy the outdoors. If you’re not sure whether you should bring along a speaker to enjoy some music as well, know that it is perfectly fine as long as you remain respectful of other campers and hikers, and of course, the wildlife around you. 

When it comes to wildlife, avoidance and precaution are the best methods of protection rather than making more noise than necessary to scare them away; use the tips mentioned above to protect yourself from wild animals before they try to pay you a visit. 

Remember, as long as you remain aware of your surroundings, be cautious and mindful of fellow campers and wildlife, and relax, you’re guaranteed to have a great camping experience.

Beau

Beau is an avid backpacker and camper who takes every opportunity to get outdoors and into nature. Having accomplished many different multi-day hiking and camping trips throughout the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia he's always looking for great ways to lighten his pack and get the most out of his gear.

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