Encounters With Nature

Nature provides the perfect setting for enjoying Missouri state parks and historic sites. The natural world, however, is home to a few plants and animals that could affect your outdoor experience. Here are some suggestions on how to make sure your outdoor experience is a positive one.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy can be identified by remembering the phrase "Leaves of three, let them be!" Poison ivy is a ropelike vine that is green in summer and red in the fall. Leaflets grow in groups of three off the vine.

To Prevent Exposure

Watch for the plant and stay away from it.

Wear long sleeves and pants.

Use over-the-counter creams that contain bentoquatam, which can be rubbed on the skin prior to possible exposure. They help resist the plant's oil that gets on the skin.

If You Come Into Contact with Poison Ivy

Immediately cleanse skin with rubbing alcohol and rinse well with water.

Wash all clothing.

Bathe pets as the oil can stay in their fur.


Missouri is home to 47 species and subspecies of snake.  These snakes range in size from a worm-like 7 inches to 72 inches (6 feet) in length. Of these species, only fivw are venomous and include the timber rattlesnake (in decline statewide), western pygmy rattlesnake (southern Missouri),  massasauga rattlesnake (endangered species north central /northwest Missouri), western cottonmouth (southeastern Missouri), and the Osage copperhead (common statewide).

Keep Yourself and Missouri’s Snakes Safe
  • The Wildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes as a nongame species, making them a protected animal and unlawful to kill
  • Be mindful of your surroundings- look before stepping over logs and rocks, watch for snakes basking in sunny spots or hiding in rocks or under logs
  • Learn to recognize snakes by their coloration, markings, body and head shape, and size.  For more on how to identify snakes, click here.
  • If a snake is encountered, allow the animal a clear path of escape and keep your distance
  • Often persons bitten by a snake were trying to either kill it or pick it up.  Stay safe by remembering three simple words…Leave Them Be!


Ticks cling to your clothing when you walk through any type of vegetation. They are most abundant in the spring and summer. The likelihood of becoming sick is slim; however, several illnesses are linked to bacteria that can be transmitted by a tick.

Precautions You Can Take

Wear light-colored clothing so all ticks can be seen easily.

Wear long pants tucked into boots or socks

Apply insect repellent containing 20 percent to 50 percent DEET directly to exposed skin and clothing.

Check you clothes periodically for ticks.

Do a complete body check after you have gone through any vegetation.

Removing a Tick

Firmly pull it straight out with a pair of tweezers, grasping it as close to the skin as possible.

Use duct tape or other tape to remove seed ticks.

Clean the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic.


Less than 1 percent of mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus and if the mosquito is infected, only one person in five becomes ill.

To Help Minimize Being Bitten by a Mosquito

Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent like DEET directly to exposed skin and clothing. For children two months and older, use a repellent with 30 percent less DEET.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.

Avoid going outdoors around dusk and dawn.

Encounters With Animals

Wild animals are not pets and should be enjoyed from a distance. Skunks, raccoons, bears and other wild animals may become unwelcome guests in your campsite.
Guard Against Unwelcome Visitors

Do not feed wildlife.

Put all trash in receptacles.

Keep all food locked in your car or camper, or in sturdy wooden or metal containers.


Do not eat raw crayfish. Crayfish (crawdads) contain parasites that can cause severe lungworm disease in people and animals. Cooked crayfish are safe to eat.