Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Be Nature-Safe

Being Nature-Safe means respecting wildlife, being aware of the living things around you, and knowing how to properly prepare for the outdoors so you can avoid unpleasant experiences. In addition to wearing proper footwear and sunscreen, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself from plants and insects that might dampen your experience. 


Ticks can spread disease, including Lyme disease. The ticks that spread Lyme disease can be found in every county in Wisconsin. Not all tick bites will make you sick, but it is still important to take steps to protect yourself and your family while enjoying time outdoors.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants and tuck your pants inside your socks. Lightcolored clothing will make it easier to spot ticks. Don't wear open-toed shoes and sandals.
  • Use insect repellents containing .5 percent permethrin or 20 to 30 percent DEET. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  • Walk down the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing against grass and shrubs.

Remember, ticks need to be attached for 24 to 48 hours before the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are actually transmitted. It is key to remove the tick within the first 24 hours to prevent infection.

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Wild Parsnip

Wild parsnip is a highly invasive plant and if ignored can spread rapidly, developing into large monocultures that replace native animal and plant habitat. The plant sap contains toxic chemicals that are activated by sunlight and can cause serious burns and blisters to human skin after contact. Avoid touching parsnip and if you do, wash the sap off your skin quickly to avoid burns. Dane County Parks uses timed mowing to cut wild parsnip within the parks. If wild parsnip is cut just prior to going to seed it may not grow back again, if it does, it is mowed again. If this process is repeated over a five years it’s has been shown to remove the plants and the seedbank.

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Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are plants that can cause a red, itchy rash if you touch or brush up against any part of the plant, including leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots, even if the plant is dead. You can also get a rash if you touch anything that has come in contact with these plants, such as clothing, sporting gear, gardening tools, or pet fur.

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Extreme Heat

Please use extreme caution if you visit a Dane County Park during extremely hot weather.  If you do choose to visit a park during extreme heat, here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
  • Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
  • Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen.
  • Do Not Leave Children or Pets in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. 
  • Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or a friend has symptoms of heat-related illness.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)