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Experience nature from your own backyard

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:13 PDT, Wed July 8, 2020

Summer has arrived, and with it another season of camping.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about a season traditionally filled with outdoor excursions. In the absence of formal events, people can still enjoy the joys of nature from the safety of their own backyard.

“I love the idea of camping in your backyard because it’s convenient,” says Richmond Nature Park coordinator Kris Bauder. “You don’t have that fuss and bother of going out into the woods somewhere, and there are amazing things happening at night that most people don’t even think are there.”

Bauder says many people go inside as soon as it gets dark, so they miss many aspects of outdoor life. In her own backyard she’s recorded a variety of wildlife including raccoons, skunks, bats, squirrels, rabbits, and frogs—which she calls “the chorus of the night.”

“One of the most wonderful things I ever saw was dew worms dancing,” says Bauder. “They come partway out of their burrow and twist and turn, and it’s this slow motion ballet—it’s absolutely amazing.”

Some animals can be heard even when invisible. Crickets and frogs are easy for most people to hear, but bats can be more stealthy because of their quiet volume.

“Mostly it’s children that can hear (bats), because they have a wider range of hearing,” says Bauder. 

But, she warns, there are some animals to be extra cautious around. If you live in a neighbourhood with bears, don’t sleep outside. And if you have coyotes nearby, spook them by making loud noises with pots and pans or throwing small stones, sticks or a tennis ball.

To avoid attracting animals at night, put all food and cooking supplies away—including your barbecue or grill. Raccoons can also open things like barbecues, and may damage them if left in the open.

“Water is something that will attract things as well, so if you have a bird bath or a fish pond or something in your backyard, it can be a wonderful draw for wildlife,” Bauder says. “Raccoons are definitely drawn to ponds with goldfish in them, mosquitoes breed in ponds, and other things like bats will be around because of the mosquitoes.”

While precautions should be taken outside, there are also huge advantages to experiencing the outdoors at night. 

“It’s enlightenment—I think you can learn to appreciate what’s out there,” says Bauder. “There’s a whole community of life that most people probably aren’t aware of.”

While backyard camping may be the most accessible way to sleep outside this summer, plans are afoot for more learning opportunities courtesy of Parks Canada and the city.

The City of Richmond has run a ‘learn to camp’ program for about seven or eight years, an overnight program where we stay at one of the parks,” explains Rich Kenny, community facilities programmer for Richmond Nature Park and Terra Nova Park.

After discovering that Parks Canada offered similar programs, the city combined forces with the organization two years ago. Since then, events have run at Woodward’s Landing—a Girl Guides of Canada property on Dyke Road—each year.

The pandemic has forced the cancellation of this year’s ‘learn to camp’ event—which would have run last weekend under normal circumstances. But Kenny says the Parks Canada team is exploring several alternative options, including programs on how to physical distance effectively outside and while camping, as well as ‘animal aware’ sessions for adults and families. 

For more information and resources offered by Parks Canada, visit their website.

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