Little Wolf Nature Preserve

Preserving Beautiful Kentucky


Little Wolf Safety Guide – Spring, Summer & Fall Edition

Posted by Timm

Not Disneyland; A Potentially Dangerous Wilderness

Hello and welcome to Little Wolf Nature Preserve.  We are so glad you are visiting our little slice of Kentucky heaven.  But it’s very important to remember that Little Wolf is not a guaranteed-safe, bubble-wrapped environment like Disneyland.  Little Wolf sits in the middle of Daniel Boone National Forest and is a wilderness full of potential dangers.  We want you to have a good time, but we also want you to be safe.  So please read the following warnings very carefully and take any necessary precautions to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones.

Poisonous Snakes

There are two poisonous snakes in Kentucky: the copperhead and rattlesnake.  Their bites are very painful but rarely fatal for healthy adults.  Copperheads can be especially aggressive, often biting first and asking questions later.  There are also many non-poisonous snakes that won’t kill you but have a painful bite.  Poisonous snakes have vertical eye slits like a cat; non-poisonous snakes have round pupils.  Snakes are especially active during May and June.  Be sure to watch where you step, and never place your hand or foot in a hole or other blind spot that you cannot fully see.  And never walk through tall grass or weeds unless you have no other safe alternative.

Poisonous Spiders

There are two poisonous spiders in Kentucky: the black widow and brown recluse.  Neither spider is very aggressive and will bite only if pressed against the skin, such as when putting on clothes that have a spider in them.  Never place your hand or foot in a hole or other blind spot that you cannot fully see.  Thoroughly shake out any clothes that were laying on the floor or furniture before putting them on.


Ticks are numerous in southeastern Kentucky and can be quite heavy in the summer.  Fortunately it’s relatively rare around here for a tick to transmit Lyme Disease or other maladies.  Also, a tick must remain attached to your body for at least 24 hours to transmit any disease.  After hiking, be sure to inspect your entire body for ticks.  Run your fingers through your hair and over your scalp.  If you find a tick, remove the entire tick including its head with tweezers or fingernails.  A tick bite will itch for a few days.  See a doctor if a red bullseye rash appears around the tick bite or if you experience flu-like symptoms.


Chiggers are reddish-brown mite larvae.  They are very small, just barely visible to the naked eye.  Chiggers are common in tall grass and on logs.  If you brush up against a plant covered in chiggers, within minutes your legs can be swarming with dozens of creepy-crawlies.  If the chiggers are still moving, then they haven’t bitten you yet.  Most bites occur around the ankles, in the groin area, behind the knees, and under the armpits.  You can remove chiggers from your skin with your fingernail, or rubbing with soap and water.  Chigger bites turn red and very itchy in a couple hours, intense itching will last for a couple days, and red lesions may remain on your skin for a couple weeks.  Fortunately chiggers do not carry disease.

Deer Flies

Deer flies are similar in size to a house fly, but a deer fly has patterned gold or green eyes and a distinctive V shape.  Deer fly bites can be painful like a sting, though the pain dissipates relatively quickly; or you may not feel a bite at all.  But within minutes the bite will itch like crazy for the rest of the day.  A deer fly will buzz and bounce around your head relentlessly until you kill it, leave the area, or it bites you.  One defense is to hold your hands above your head.  The deer fly will circle your hands and eventually try to land, at which point you should crush the fly with your other hand.


Mosquitoes are actually not as bad here as they are in many other parts of the country.  But it’s a good idea to wear bug spray May through September.  In Kentucky there have been a few confirmed cases of the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus, however in all cases the disease was originally contracted in Central America.

Other Biting Insects

There are numerous other biting and stinging insects in Kentucky, including the ant, bee, gnat, hornet, horse fly, mosquito, yellow jacket, and wasp.  Don’t lay on the ground; don’t sit on wet logs or dirt-covered rocks; and don’t walk through tall grass, weeds, or bushes.


Bats are quite common here at dusk.  Bats typically fly in broad circles overhead hunting for bugs.  Avoid contact with bats, as 1 in 3 bats may have rabies.  If you don’t mess with bats, they typically won’t mess with you.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is quite prevalent throughout Little Wolf as both ground cover and vines.  Learn its distinctive 3-leaf shape.  Of course you should avoid touching poison ivy, but if you do, wash your skin with soap and water as soon as possible.  An itchy, red rash will appear 1-3 days after exposure to poison ivy and can last a couple weeks.  Heavy exposure can result in a severe rash with blisters and lots of puss.  See a doctor immediately if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.

Stinging Plants

There are wild rose bushes, locust trees, and other plants with sharp thorns.  The stinging nettle is a plant with triangular leaves and stinging hairs that cause redness and severe itching.  These symptoms don’t last long but can be quite uncomfortable.  If you come into contact with stinging nettles, wash the affected area with soap and water.  You may also coat your skin with a paste made from baking soda and water to reduce the itching and irritation. 

Wild Animals

Little Wolf is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which are full of wild animals.  This includes the bat, beaver, bird, black bear, bobcat, chipmunk, coyote, deer, fish, fox, frog, hawk, heron, mink, mole, mouse, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, rat, salamander, skunk, squirrel, toad, turkey, turtle, vulture, weasel, and woodchuck.  All of which have defenses that can cause you harm.  Thus all wild animals are considered “armed and dangerous” and should be enjoyed only at a distance.  Note this also applies to unknown domesticated animals, such as the cat, chicken, cow, dog, goat, horse, sheep, and human.

Falling Down

There is no pavement at Little Wolf—it’s all grass, gravel, dirt, mud, rocks, and water.  Tree roots that cross trails are slippery as ice.  There are numerous sinkholes.  The ground is uneven and always changing, and hiking trails may be littered with stones, branches, and other debris.  It’s even more dangerous in autumn when fallen leaves form a blanket on the path and obscure any underlying holes or obstacles.  We strongly recommend wearing high-top hiking boots with a firm sole.  Don’t walk too close to the edge of a cliff, as the ground may collapse under your weight.  Take your time, hike slowly, watch your step, and know that your footing could give way at any moment. 

Trail Obstacles

Be sure to look down, up, and all around while you hike.  Look down on the trail for holes, rocks, sticks, tree roots, snakes, turtles, and other animals.  Look up and ahead for tree branches, thorn bushes, boulders, cliffs, and the weather.  And look all around to enjoy the amazing scenery that surrounds you.


The temperature on top of the mountain is usually 10 degrees cooler than the valley.  The shade behind the mountain can be 20 degrees colder than sunny areas.  And the temperature everywhere can drop 20 degrees in 10 minutes after the sun sets behind the mountain.  The weather can change quickly, and approaching storms may be hidden by the mountain.  Be sure to dress warmly and in layers, so that you can add and remove clothing as needed.  Also, your feet are likely to get muddy and wet, so wear waterproof boots and hiking socks.


Summer temperatures can reach into the 90s with high humidity.  People and pets can easily become overheated, resulting in hyperthermia.  Symptoms include confusion, elevated heart rate, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and weakness.  The skin may be moist if sweating is still occurring, or dry if sweating has stopped.  Coma or death may result if the person does not cool off quickly.  Drink plenty of liquids.  Avoid heavy exertion during the heat of the afternoon.  Seek shade.

Don’t Drink the Water

Never drink untreated surface water anywhere in the world.  There is a good chance any surface water you encounter is contaminated with bacteria from human or animal waste.  Gastric distress will occur in 1-2 weeks and last for 2-4 weeks.

Don’t Swim in the Water

Naegleria fowleri is rare but fatal “brain-eating amoeba” that can enter the nose of swimmers in warm freshwater ponds and streams.  We do not recommend you swim anywhere at Little Wolf, except in a treated pool.

Stay Aware and Have Fun!

Little Wolf Nature Preserve can be a fun, educational and safe place to enjoy nature with your family and friends.  Just please take your time, watch your step, and stay aware of your surroundings.  We are looking forward to your visit!

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    Little Wolf Nature Preserve is a private preserve located in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Southern Kentucky, USA.

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