June is National Safety Month, so for this week’s blog, I thought I’d touch on staying safe in the woods. The outdoors can be a source of immense mental and physical health benefits (as we talked about in several recent posts), but they can also cause injury and illness if we’re not careful. With that in mind, here are a few safety tips for when you head out into nature:
- Watch out for ticks
Perhaps the greatest risk from being outdoors (at least in the northeastern US) comes from the tiny deer tick and its ability to spread Lyme disease. The CDC estimates that as many as 300,000 Americans get infected with Lyme every year, and both Lyme and ticks have spread dramatically over the past decade. You can get Lyme any time ticks are active (which is whenever the temperature is above freezing), but historically, June and July are by far the worst months. We have a whole set of MyWoodlot activities devoted to ticks and tick disease prevention. Check them out before you go outside.
- Look out above
Widow-makers are rotten trees or broken limbs suspended in another tree. They can fall without warning, especially on windy days, so keep an eye out for them overhead as you travel or camp in the woods.
- Know your poisonous plants
Many plants cause skin irritation. Learn to identify them so you can avoid them.
- Give wildlife some space
Human-wildlife encounters are extremely rare, and the few that occur are almost always the human’s fault. Never feed or approach a wild animal, and be aware of these other best practices for what to do if one approaches you.
- Be prepared
It’s a Scout motto for a reason. When out in the woods, make sure you have essential gear like a map, food, and plenty of water. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. A little planning ahead of time can help keep you safe in an emergency.
- Use equipment responsibly
Equipment like ATVs and chainsaws can be remarkable helps around your land, but they can also be dangerous. Even if you’ve been using these machines for decades, it’s worth refreshing yourself on ATV and chainsaw safety to make sure you aren’t making careless mistakes.
- Watch the weather
The US has more than 70,000 wildfires and 100,000 thunderstorms every year. Check the weather ahead of time and stay indoors if storms or red flag warnings are in the forecast.