Raccoons, Bears, and Type 1 Diabetics

Raccoons are just like bears only smaller, right?

Umm… maybe?

Anyway I spend a bit of time camping out in the woods. In New England we only have black bears to consider, no grizzly’s. But I still don’t want to wake up with one in my tent.

I hang my food pack from a treebranch and hope for the best.

But then as a type 1 I have to deal with hypo’s (low blood sugar). When I’m in the woods I’m often exercising hard. It’s not unusual for me to wake up low at night, a little out of my head. Got to have a snack handy. Oh yeah and when I’m low even a dull bear is smarter and more capable than I am.

I keep a drybox full of canada mints in my PFD pocket. Its a small gasketed polycarbonate box. http://www.rei.com/product/723130

It’s awful handy when my sugar drops in the middle of a class III rapid.

So last week we were up in Maine for 6 days.

I decided I’d just leave the PFD, with mints in the box, outside my tent and see what happened.

I used the mints a couple of nights. Glad they were there.

Never saw any sign of bear other than a week old pile of scat near the last campsite we used.

One night one of my associates got pretty pissed and left an open carton of milk and an almost full can of peanuts near the fire ring.

About 4 AM I heard something rattling around. I had to use the outhouse so I got up. I found the chewed milk carton and the empty peanut can on my way to the outhouse. When I came down there was a big old raccoon sitting on my boat wishing he could open my beer cans and wash down those salty nuts.

He never showed any interest in my PFD or the box of mints in the pocket. Those were not bothered by anything the whole week.

I’m still not going to bring them into my tent. And I’m thinking of some way to secure the box to something less portable or at least less important than my pfd. But it seems as though this might be the answer to the bears vs hypos dilemma.

Your thoughts?

Bears vs. Hippos
If it’s a black bear I think I’d bet on the hippo.

A grizzly vs a hippo might be a hell of a fight.

Low risk in my opinion

– Last Updated: Sep-25-09 8:03 AM EST –

I have spent a LOT of time camping in areas with raccoons and I have NEVER had one come into my tent while sleeping. I have certainly been in places where there might be a "herd" of raccoons hunting for unsecured food or trash around the campsite once the sun starts to set! Of course, I generally don't bring food into my tent.

I have also spent a lot of time camping with boy scouts in areas with lots of raccoons. Now we always told the boys they should not have food in their tents (and the warning was generally referencing raccoons), but, boys being boys, there would invariably be empty candy bar wrappers in some tents the next morning... Never had a boy that faced a scavenging raccoon in their tent.

I think that the box of mints you talk about would be a very low risk. I would actually be more reluctant to leave the box outside in my PFD overnight since a raccoon might chew his way into a PFD pocket if there really was a good scent there and nobody was around.

Overall, the risk of you getting hurt because of low blood sugar is probably greater than the risk of an overnight visit in your tent from a raccoon (in my opinion).

bld sugars
One way to stop the lows is check your sugars more. If your getting lows in the middle of the night it is because your long term insulin is kicking in. Discuss with your doctor on reducing it at night when on trips. Learning how to adjust your insulins when off the beaten path is important.

I too am insulin dependent for over 20 years now and do rather well in the backcountry. I keep a Power bar in my PFD which is about 45 grams of Carbs. I also take it in my sleeping bag at night because you know we always have to be prepared for those lows. If a bear came in the tent then he’d be my meals for the next few days. In all seriousness checking your sugars more frequent can better prepare you.


Get a Garcia bear cannister
We have two of them.

They are small, lightweight, completely bear and critter proof, and they make a great little seat.

We used them all over Alaska, and the Arctic as well as here in the lower states when we go into critter inhabited wilds



need to set out traps for those pests and catch something live for breakfast!

Don’t you think critters go on scent?
My theory has always been that the critters are going to follow their noses. Around camp, there is usually plenty of things that smell enough to divert the interest of the critters. So, as long as you don’t smear your candy cannister with bacon grease, the critter probably is not coming into your tent.

McCrea showed me some plastic buckets that appeared sturdy that had been chewed through, but I have not had problems leaving food secured in watertight kayak hatches, tightly sealed plastic boxes, or a 5-gallon mud bucket with the top snapped tight. I’ve also frequently brought a sealed drybag with food in it into my tent. In a pristine environment with no other sources of scent, an animal could probably smell my food in my drybag, in my tent. But the more wilderness the site, the less I’ve been bothered by animals. I think animals habituate frequently used sites to a much greater degree than in a pristine site, if you could find one. And I think a well camped site is scattered with enough scent producing material that your candy in your cannister is masked and safe to bring into your tent. Just my opinion.

Never had a bear in camp, but have had plenty of raccoons, ponies, mice, crows, and chipmunks rummaging sites while I was there. So far the only thing they’ve gotten have been things that were left stupidly available and unprotected. Then there was the coon at Farm Island that dragged off an entire wooden foodbox weighing a good 20-30 lbs. He got it about 50 yards before I ran him off, but didn’t get it open. Big sumbich, too. Stood his ground until a couple large rocks persuaded him it wasn’t worth his trouble.

You’ve heard the saying that to escape a bear, you don’t have to outrun the bear, just outrun your friend? As for critters attacking your food, make that your food just needs to smell less than other attracting scents.

When Things Go Bump In the Night

I was talkin’ to a raccoon

and his eyes did hold a glint,

as he smiled rather wryly

revealin’ breath of a fresh mint.

Now it mighta been Vela

though it coulda been a Certs,

‘n when I caught his second wind

it sure was fishy how it hurts,

to be listenin’ to his woe

how those peanuts had too much salt,

how milk sucked in substitute for beer,

least, that’s what experience taught.

I was beginnin’ to think this bandit,

full of our food and self was caddy,

‘specially when little paws tossed to the ground

crumpled foil of a York patty!

So he’s tastin’ the sensation,

and he’s now eye’n up my beer,

and I’m feelin’ kinda of woozy

hopin’ from PFD he’d stayed clear.

I’m relieved to find my stash

untouched by nocturnal bother,

and as I shovel sugar in he asks,

“How do you eat that Canuck fodder?”

So as I’m crawlin’ back in tent

bear stumbles into camp from out of night,

as bear of campmate rolls through his flaps

and I now toss-n-turn from that last sight,

of a raccoon and a bear

and my campmate - It’s plain damn scary! -

How they all sat round the campfire

passin’ fifth of Sailor Jerry!

Maybe to end these frightnin’ nocturnal discourses with woodland (and campmate) denizens, and spare the Canada mints, you should leave out some Famous Doscher’s French Chew?


I can relate…

– Last Updated: Sep-25-09 10:48 AM EST –

I can relate to the tale of a coon attempting to carry off a 20 to 30 pound food box.........

A coon attempted to drag off my very large, Coleman, 5 day, stainless steel, cooler, one night on a gravel bar. There is "no way in the world" that the cooler & it's contents weighed less than 35 pounds. He was most definitely making progress with it when I got out of the tent.

Earlier in the evening he successfully climbed a huge sycamore tree, and moved out onto a limb that was at least 30 feet off the ground. He then climbed down a minimum of 15 feet of a single strand of parachute cord, which had our trash bag attached to it. He was hanging onto the parachute cord(upside down)with his back paws, and attempting to tear open the bottom of the bag with his front paws to get to some corn cobs.

The only reason he didn't successfully tear open the bag, or get the cooler into the wood was an accurate flurry of 3 to 5 pound rocks. He was NOT happy, but luckily "for him", he did not push the issue, or he'd have met a flurry of more than rocks. I do admire their strength & agility. I have a much lower opinion of the "river dorks" who trash the gravel bars, and entice the coons into doing their nightly gravel bar foraging.


I wouldn’t leave mints outside
Wow, that seems very risky in New England—invitation to bears.

I have a similar problem, especially in the fall when it gets dark early and you have to eat supper early. I try to load up on protein for supper to maintain blood sugar.

If you’re being careful, as you should, with all food, toothpaste, lip balm, and anything else that has the slightest odor, it doesn’t make sense to leave mints outside.

Bears eat toothpaste
Also, just because 10 campers didn’t have any trouble in a spot is no guarantee the 11th won’t either. Bears and raccoons are intelligent and adaptable. That’s why hanging things from trees is no longer an accepted practice - like locking food in your car, it doesn’t work any more.

Nowadays there are no truly remote areas where it’s safe to assume humans are rare. You may be the first to use your isolated pristine campsite, but dollars to doughnuts other folks have camped near enough to contribute to the local critter learning curve.

The examples given in this thread also show that critters are losing their natural fear of humans. What’s inconvenient with a bold raccoon might turn into a deadly confrontation if it’s a bear. And bears that threaten humans usually end up exterminated. So while it may be inconvenient to use bear canisters, by protecting our food, mints, toothpaste, beer, etc., we may protect a bear’s life as well.

Hey RR I hear ya on the insulin
I’m testing 10 + times daily. Getting hard to find spots that will still bleed!

You are right I should have cut back my basal while I was out. I’ve been running a bit high otherwise and I was wondering if the first few lows were a pattern or an aberation. By the time I had it down we were heading back to civilization. I’m sure you know how it goes.

talk to your
endocrinologist rather than these folks…

dasage and type of insulin is VERY inportant when you are engaging in much more physical activity than your day to day routine.

having been insulin dependant for 48 years, I may know a little…

Mini-bear – Espresso Can
Trilliumlake makes a good point.

As to the OPs issue, I was going to suggest recycling an Illy espresso can. http://www.1stincoffee.com/illy-489.htm It’s not in all stores but I’ve seen it in two grocery stores in my area. These cans have a screw on top with a plastic gasket. I’m guessing they are air tight, since that’s the point of a coffee storage container. About 3.5" round and 6" high.

The can’s are not heavy gauge metal, so a bear could probably tear it open, but it would defy most critters. It should effectively stifle the scent, so long as you keep it clean on the outside, so maybe the bear wouldn’t mess with it in the first place.

At least in the east, I’d trust my mints to this can. If you are cohabitating with polar bears or grizzlies, I’d want a real bear can. Don’t blame me if your mints take on a coffee flavor.


your doctor knows best
yes it is always better to consult your doctor but sometimes you need to put the bug in his/her ear. Sliding scale insulin injetions are quite common in the world of Diabetes and people on sliding scales seem to have good control since it is based off their bld glucose readings, food intake and excersice.

Back to the food in the tent. I think keeping anything with a smell on it in the tent should be avoided. However with Diabetes you do need quick access to carbohydrates/food in the middle of the night. Trying to get a food barrel down in the night could be more hazardous. I think if you put some kind of food/candy bar in a plastic bag and kept it in your sleeping bag at night you’d be ok. Maybe a different story in Grizzly territory. Just check your sugars before bed and maybe increase your food intake before sleep. You can work this out with a dietician and your doctor/ diabetic health team. You can actually get it quite refined.


Insulin adjustments
I’m running MDI Novalog and Lantus. A 1:10 I:C ratio and a 1:40 correction. 22u of lantus before bed for my basal.

As RR mentioned above the basal is the culprit when my exercise goes up and the nighttime lows kick in.

You guy have been dealing with this a bit longer than me so you must know that you need to be cautious when adjusting your basal. Small changes can make big differences.

But I sure don’t need my Dr.s permision to do it. Never met a Dr. yet who had time to really look at my daily numbers and tell me anything I didn’t already know. I generaly see the patterns long before they do. Unfortunately what I mostly see is random noise

I was out just long enough to realize that I had to adjust my basal for the exercise. I don’t feel that three lows in one week, all easily self treated, is cause for alarm.

I just want to resolve the “No food near the tent but I need to have snacks handy” dilema. I can’t see that going away any time soon.

"It should effectively stifle the scent"
I don’t think so! If a bear can smell a tiny tube of toothpaste in your trunk and is willing to tear up your car to get to it, I don’t think a coffee can is going to be an effect odor barrier.

A bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a bloodhound’s—that’s 2100 times better than a human! Polar bears can detect food 40 miles away.

Everything I’ve read has empashized that food should never be left in kayak hatches in bear country. Imgaine how easy it would be for a bear to break into your kayak, when they’re so adept at destroying a car to get a small amount of food. To have a bear not only steal your food but destroy your kayak in the process could be life threatening.

Unfortunately I think there are situations where a bear canister is not possible or practical. Here’s a good way to make a bear bag that is waterproof and odor resistant: http://sectionhiker.com/2009/07/16/assembling-an-ultralight-bear-bag-system/

raccoons, bears, snacks for IDDM
I appreciate all the suggestions given so far but I will keep my suggestion simple: bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister, bear cannister. Happy paddling!

any particular bear canister you like?
and, bear canister 100’ (or is it yards?) away from tent in the dark and me whacked out hypo (think, a case of beer stoned). Doesn’t sound promising.

Gotta get out of the tent. Find it. Get it open. Eat. Get my head together. Get it closed up and stashed again. Dry off before hypothermia sets in.

Oh boy.

But it still might be the best available option.


Glucose Product
Have you looked into the glucose tablet type of product? Comes in a few different forms that may have a minimal scent as they are sealed air tight in the package to preserve integrity. Get them at most drug stores.