Wildlife viewing can be an exciting, rewarding experience. But like all forms of outdoor recreation, wildlife viewing, if practiced irresponsibly, can threaten the very wildlife that we enjoy. Consider the effects of your presence and your actions – there is a fine line between viewing and violating the natural world.
Common sense is your best tool, but the following ideas will help you enjoy wildlife respectfully.
1. Do Your Homework
Prepare by glancing through field guides and reading up on the wildlife you hope to see. Knowing about the needs and behavior of animals will make spotting and identifying them easier, and will also help you avoid disturbing them.
2. Look Ma, No Hands
Attempting to touch a wild animal is dangerous for you and the animal. Remember that young birds and other animals that are alone have probably not been abandoned – their parents may be waiting nearby. Consult with the site staff if you think an animal needs to be rescued.
3. Don’t Feed the Bears… or the other Animals
Feeding wildlife can interrept the natural life cycles of animals, create unnaturally high populations, cause animals to lose their wildness, and provide poor nutrition.
4. Silence is Golden
Move quietly and encourage your companions to do likewise. Not only will this lessen the wildlife disturbance, you will also see more wildlife.
5, Don’t Tread on Me
Walk only on trails and restrict your bicycles and vehicles to the road. Wandering off-trail can disturb wildlife, kill vegetation, cause erosion, and injurt small animals that we may not even see. Remember that pets are not allowed on trails.
6. Do Unto Others
Be considerate of other wildlife viewers and nearby landowners. Obtain permission before entering private property and leave it undisturbed. Serve as a goodwill ambassador for other wildlife viewers!
7. Everything in Its Place
Do not collect or relocate natural objects or wildlife, as this reduces viewing opportunities for others and removes materials from the earth’s nutrient cycle. Transporting animals, plants, or fish from one site to another can disrupt a wildlife community and introduce competition, predation, or disease.
8. Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You
Using recorded or hand calls to attract wildlife has been shown to cause undue stress on some species by interrupting courtship, nesting, and feeding. Listen instead to the different and beautiful calls the animals themselves make.
9. Too Close for Comfort
If an animal seems nervous, back off. Use binoculars and zoom lenses to view and photograph wildlife from a distance. Do not annoy or flush wildlife for a better photograph.
10. Hide and Seek
Concealing yourself among plants can prevent your being detected, but try not to damage plant life. On roads, your vehicle can act as a blind as some animals are more afraid of people on foot. Sometimes it is better to sit still, immerse yourself in the beauty around you, and wait to see what wildlife will come to you.