Outdoor Safety

Overview of Wildlife Safety

The Danger of Rabies

Rabies is a disease that affects the brain. Rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and is spread by biting. In West Virginia, raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are the most common animals to have rabies. Other animals, including cats and dogs, can also get rabies. You should always keep a safe distance from wild animals and stray cats and dogs while in the wild.

General Safety Around Wild Animals

When you go camping, ATV-ing, or hiking in the woods, you are entering the territory of wild animals. The following guidelines are general safety practices to help you stay safe around West Virginia wildlife:

  • Keep Your Campsite Clean: Do not leave food or trash out in the open or unsealed. This may attract wild animals to your campsite. If you do not have a car, food and trash should be hung in a tree out of reach of animals and a safe distance from your campsite.
  • Lock Up: If you are “car camping,” make sure to lock food, trash and other items in your vehicle when not in use.
  • Don’t Feed the Animals: They may seem friendly, but you should never feed or try to pet wildlife.
  • Use the Buddy System: When adventuring in the wild, always stay with a buddy. Do not hike, ATV or camp alone.
  • Pay Attention: When camping or traveling in wildlife areas, always be aware of your surroundings. Certain animals, such as bears and coyotes, are dangerous.
  • Avoid Dead Animals: There is the potential for dead animals you find in the wild to carry disease or be the prey of a predator animal, such as a bear or coyotes.
  • Avoid Young Animals: Certain animals, such as bears, are extremely protective of their young and may attack.

Overview of Safety and Laws

5:00 p.m. Burning Law

  • March 1 – May 31 – 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.
  • October 1 – December 31 – 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.

Maximum Fine: $1,000.00 for violating the Burning Law

Burning Laws in Brief:

  • No burning from 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Fire must be attended at all times.
  • Area must be cleared down to mineral soil for a minimum distance of 10 feet around what is being burned.
  • If your fire escapes, you are liable for the costs of fighting the fire and any damage the fire may cause to others.

Willfully setting fires is a felony and punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. (WEST VIRGINIA ARSON HOTLINE 1 (800) 233-FIRE)

Sponsored by:

  • WV DIVISION OF FORESTRY
  • WV FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
  • UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE

West Virginia Forest Fire Laws

The periods of each year between March 1 and May 31, inclusive, and October 1 and December 31, inclusive, are hereby designated as Forest Fire Seasons.

No person shall during ANY such fire season, except between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. prevailing time, set on fire or cause to be set on fire any forest land, or any grass, grain, stubble, slash, debris, or other inflammable materials. Any fire set during this time shall be extinguished prior to 7:00 a.m. prevailing time. Such prohibition of fires between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. prevailing time shall not be construed to include (1) small fires set for the purpose of food preparation, or providing light or warmth around which all grass, brush, stubble, or other debris has been removed for a distance of ten feet from the fire, and (2) burning which may be conducted at any time when the ground surrounding the burning site is covered by one inch or more of snow.

No burning may be done unless all inflammable material has been removed from around the material to be burned as a safety strip for a distance which insures that the fire will not escape and which is not less than 10 feet. If fire escapes beyond the safety strip, the person responsible shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Before leaving ANY fire for ANY period of time, it must be totally extinguished.

Commercial permits to burn during the prohibited periods may be issued by the Division of Forestry.

All sawmills, power shovels, or an engine or machine capable of throwing sparks must be provided with an adequate spark arrestor if operating on land subject to fire by any cause.

All inflammable waste disposal areas on ANY land must annually have removed all grass, brush, debris and other inflammable material adjacent to such disposal areas to provide adequate protection to prevent the escape of fire to adjacent lands.

The State shall recover from the person or persons, firms or corporations whose negligence or whose violations of any provisions of this article cause ANY fire at ANY time on any grass or forest land the amount expended by the State.

A landowner must take all practicable means to suppress ANY fire on his property. If he fails to do so, the State shall collect from him the amounts expended by the State for such purposes.

Learn more about West Virginia Forest Fire Laws at www.wvforestry.com