Leather in the wild?

5:12 p.m. on August 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Can high quality leather boots, belts, wallets, etc. attract animals? I know my dog always tries to come after my leather belts and wallet...gotta keep em' high. Is it a danger in the wild?

8:04 p.m. on August 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't think so. When I startedhiking in the 1970s most boots were still made of leather, with hardly any synthetics or cotton/nylon used yet. I never had any problems with animals chewing the hide boots, even in Alaska where wildlife was truely wild. The smells that boots have being made from leather usually does not attract carnivores to them like the natural smells and tastes of animal hides untanned.

In some rare cases Porcupines have been known to chew on items like shoes for the salt in the sweating process left behind, but not for the leather. I even had a Porcupine chew into my spare tire while bicycling across Alaska in 2006. Could not have been for salt, but some chemical smell that attracted it to my tire.

10:55 p.m. on August 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Oh wow, I was wondering about this myself backpacking this weekend. I've always had this habit of keeping my boots inside my tent at night .. because in the past I've heard stories about critters chewing on them (or carrying them away?) if left outside. But now I'm backpacking with an UL tent and don't really want to bring the boots inside. But I was wondering if the salts (from sweat) in the boot might attract critters if I left them outside...

12:16 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Well, most critters at night are asleep too. Just bears looking for a midnight snack, but if there are no Porcupines I don't think there should be a problem with anything carrying them off.

12:40 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Three years ago, at Caprock Canyon SP in the Texas panhandle, a raccoon carried off my son's new running shoes one night. It stole them from under the open vestibule of his tent and carried each shoe down a different game trail into the mesquite brush. I spent almost an hour looking for them before I found both shoes. I think it was mad because I chased it out of the campsite and it couldn't get into the trash bag I had just put away.

12:44 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Are you serious? Wow. I had a squirrel come get in my backpack because I left food in there by mistake....not a big deal though.


Man I'm scared I always use my vestibule....

2:27 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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When I worked as a hut keeper in New Zealand I always told the guests to be sure to bring their boots in off the porch or the keas would get at them. They liked to tear apart the foam padded scree collars and pull out and shred the laces, and one time somebody left a nice tender pair of work boots out on a full moon night and the keas shredded them right down to the soles. I've also had keas tear holes in a nylon daypack just to see what's inside. Until I stopped people feeding them they used to hang around the hut at all hours, getting into trouble, partying up on the roof until late at night. Maybe not too relevant for North American hikers, but hopefully amusing. I posted a picture of a kea a while back in the wildlife part of the photo contest.

7:52 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I think brand name of the leather article has to be considered. I had a cougar once dog me over my Coach wallet.
Ed

8:22 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey Red,which hut were you at? I've got a couple of good Kea stories for you.

The old Hooker Hut (before the glacier melt made it inacessible)-on my first trip over the Copeland Pass, woke up to Keas screaming down the roof in the middle of the night.

Arthur's Pass-friend of mine came back from a hike to see a Nissan in the parking lot completely torn up inside-he thought it was vandals until he looked closer-Keas had peeled off the windscreen rubber, pushed the windscreen in and had a field day ripping apart the interior.

They like to hang out at the warming hut at the top of the Milford Track. I think the guides feed them, they were pretty tame.

3:05 a.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I was at Mintaro in 78-79 and 79-80, before it was upgraded to the present 40-bunk model. Pass hut was different then too. My favorite kea story:

One (rare!) sunny day I did my laundry in the wheelbarrow, then hung it up on a clothesline in back of the hut. I heard some banging noise from somewhere inside the hut, immediately thought of keas (no one else there), ran around front and saw hat I had left the door to my little room open. As I approached I could see there was a kea on my food shelf, systematically tipping the contents onto the table below. It flew out over my shoulder, grazing my ear with a wingtip as it flew by. As i was inside cleaning up the mix of strawberry jam, instant coffee etc. on the table, I heard keas screaming out back. I ran back around (remembering to close the door) and found three or four keas attacking my laundry, hanging upside down from the wire and pulling the clothespins so my sheets, clothes etc. fell to the ground where they could then shred them at their leisure. One was hanging upside down form the hem of a towel still on the line, shredding away happily. I figure the first event was a planned diversion to create an opening for the second.

I wrote a (mostly humorous) article for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's magazine, Living Bird, about this and other experiences, published ca. 1986.

The windscreen story has been around for at least the 30+ years since I first heard it -- I sometimes wonder if it's apocryphal. It may get a mention in Bill Anderson's book about his years on the Milford Track. I've also heard about motorcycle seats shredded down to a pile of foam and Naugahyde.

Here's the old photo contest picture, of a kea at Pass Hut where we had set out a mirror just to see what it would do:

And here's one on the roof of the hut, showing the orange flashes under the wings:

Somewhere I've got one of me holding a kea wrapped in towel like a little baby, just that mean little beak sticking out. We (the Quintin guides an I) lured it into pass hut, slammed the door with a jury-rigged rope, and chased it around inside the hut -- utter chaos -- until we finally pinned it down with a towel. Good fun.

I have 1000s of old slides from all over New Zealand (100s of good ones). Someday I'll get around to scanning some of the best to share, here and elsewhere, but it could be a while.

3:46 p.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
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I did the Milford in 86 as a "freedom walker" but saw some of the guided folks along the way. Thanks for posting the pics.

Right after Milford, I did the Routeburn. I later did the Copland (twice). I was bike touring part of the time too and did a climbing course with Alpine Guides at Mt. Cook. I wound up living in Christchurch for a while. Great place, I went back and forth a couple of times.

I'm like you, I've got slides stashed away I should get scanned.

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