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Caches are very often hidden in hollows. Generally any tree with more or less visible hollow is a very probable geocache hide.

Often you can't easily look into that hollow because it's deep or located above your head. I usually simply put my hand into the hollow to check what's inside. In Central Europe the danger is relatively moderate, in worst case you can be bitten by squirrel or maybe wild cat. But in some countries, like Australia, there are very dangerous spiders and even protective gloves won't be enough.

Are there any safe methods to check in hollows for cache, without risking being bitten?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm lucky to come from the UK where this isn't really an issue (though we still have adders, so sometimes I'm a bit wary.)

Having said that, I'll generally still take the following precautions to avoid being bitten, even if it's not life threatening (red ant bytes can still be bloody annoying for instance, and there's lots of those!)

  1. Use a torch. I always carry a bright LED torch in my Geocaching bag, even if it's in broad daylight, for this very reason. This is a good first port of call for a couple of reasons - you can generally see if there's anything in the hole resembling a Geocache (or a bag containing a Geocache), and you can see if there's any nasties in there too.

  2. Use a (walking) stick. Walking sticks that collapse are also a great item to have for this purpose (and they can help getting up to tricky cache areas too.) Of course, if you don't have one then a normal stick will do too. As well as feeling around in the hole, listen for the sound of it hitting something different - the sound of hitting a plastic box for instance is very different to wood. Don't go too wild with this approach though, you don't want to break the cache! Just tapping gently is good enough.

  3. Wear appropriate clothing. When you come to reach into the hole, make sure you're wearing thick gloves and a long sleeved, thick top if you think it's at all likely that there's something in there. This of course won't prevent a bite outright, but it may make it less serious if something does attack you.

  4. Don't get too carried away with one hole. If you've tried an obvious looking hole and can't feel / see something immediately, perhaps move onto another one using the same technique - if there is something in there, it's much more likely to bite you if you keep your hand in there for ages rather than doing a quick reach, feel and withdrawing it again.

  5. Remember to be careful in the city to. Sounds obvious, but remember wildlife that harms isn't just restricted to the countryside - I've heard of at least one person not taking any precautions in a rather built up area and being given a nasty bite from a rat that he startled! Also remember that various other nasty things are more likely to lurk in built up areas, needles being one of the worst.

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I think berry120 answered the question better than I did! Good advice! Adding on to number 5., not only might there be something like a rat in a city geocache, there could also be things like sharp metal pieces, broken glass, drug paraphernalia, etc. that you wouldn't want to reach blindly into. –  Blackbear Jan 24 at 0:37
    
@Blackbear Good point, I've added that on now as well - I've been fortunate to avoid any such encounters yet, but have certainly been weary of such things when searching. –  berry120 Jan 24 at 0:42
    
Add "tap first". You don't want to sneak up on whatever is inside. Given a chance it (for most "its") will leave if it knows you are coming. –  Bryce Jan 24 at 23:17

Obviously safety is usually a relative concept, what seems safe for you might not be for others, so answers here may vary.

I don't have experience with geocaching, but I do have a lot of experience with reptiles. I'm a hobbyist wildlife photographer specializing in reptiles, amphibians and insects. When reaching into an unknown area, the safest thing that I do is first use a long stick to sweep the area. In your case, if you thought a cache was in a tree hole, you could use a long stick to sweep around inside. This is usually good enough to scare away snakes, any mammals and lizards. Most reptiles are not territorial in the way that mammals are so it's fairly easy to scare them off. As far as spiders or other dangerous insects, usually the stick is enough, but I would still recommend wearing thick gloves if you're worried. There are even kevlar reinforced gloves that make venomous snake handling safer, but they are fairly expensive.

Other visually observing the hole, or using another tool (such as a stick) to clear the hole, I don't know of any foolproof methods of making sure a cache area would be 100% safe.

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