By Colin Cauldwell
Generally speaking, walking and hiking in the Great Woods Conservation Area is a very safe activity.
But, as with any pursuit, there are a few precautions the prudent visitor should take. Hunting is allowed in the Great Woods year round. Hunters may be encountered in the woods at any time, especially during deer season, in the late fall. Precise information on hunting seasons may be obtained from the Town Clerk's office at the Town Hall.
To minimize potential problems hikers should wear hunter orange and dog walkers should consider clothing their pets in a similar fashion.
Poison Ivy is one the most common plants in the Great Woods especially around the Codding Farm property. Hikers should be able to identify it and avoid it. Consequences for not doing so can range from annoying to life threatening. Any good plant identification guide will have a picture and description of poison ivy. Washing hands and other exposed skin with dish detergent upon return from the woods will help with accidental poison ivy exposure.
Another serious problem, can come from the bite of the deer tick. This tiny insect can spread Lyme Disease, which can be debilitating. Precautions to prevent this include wearing long pants and long sleeves and tucking pants into the tops of boots or socks. Also, insect repellent with a high concentration of Deet sprayed around the cuff and boot area is an effective deterrent.
Poison Ivy. Note the three leaf clusters and shiny, reddish ,new leaf growth.
As a precaution, you should examine yourself carefully when you return from the woods for these very small ticks.
In the late summer and early fall, mosquitoes can carry the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus which can be deadly. Use the same precautions that are used to prevent Deer Tick problems.
By following these simple precautions, you can have a safe and pleasant visit to the Great Woods Conservation Area.
Editor's note: There have been no reported cases of Lyme Disease and EEE, nor have there been any hunting accidents, in recent times, in the Mansfield Great Woods.