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How to Practice Safe and Responsible Wildlife Watching

deer laying in wetland area next to fallen tree

Spending some time enjoying the great outdoors isn't always the safest thing to do. Yes, there are many health benefits to being surrounded by nature. But there are also certain risks one must consider before venturing out into the wild. Luckily, there are also safety measures that appeared as a consequence of rather unpleasant stories. There's no need to emphasize that one needs to act in a certain manner once outdoors. Today, we'll talk a little about how to practice safe and responsible wildlife watching. So that you don't begin your wildlife-watching adventure unprepared. Stay tuned for some info you'll use to protect yourself and your family during your traditional wilderness outings!

#1 Try to be as quiet as possible

If you're an experienced hiker, you already know that making your presence known while hitting the trails is a necessity. A standard safety measure one must remember in order to avoid not-so-pleasant surprise encounters with potentially dangerous animals. However, things are totally different when you're observing wildlife in its natural habitat. It's very important that you avoid making loud noises while you're doing this. Also, if you are by any chance looking at wildlife from a vehicle, the best thing you can do is avoid rolling down your windows at all. That way, you'll steer clear of startling or frightening the animals. 

All in all: while you're observing wildlife, try to be as quiet as possible. Needless to say, avoid playing music, don't use your horn, and speak to your buddies in a quiet and peaceful manner. Lastly, keep your body movements slow.

sandhill crane standing in woods

#2 Say goodbye to flash photography (while observing wildlife)

That's right; you'll want to refrain from using flash photography. This might create some stress for the animals. Even though the chance of animals ending up being hurt by your flash photography depends on the species, don't do it. For instance, night birds have their photoreceptors pretty adapted to darker conditions. Therefore, they're very sensitive to bright lights. You might temporarily blind them by using flash photography. They won't die from the flash, but you should still steer clear of the idea.

#3 Don't venture into the wild without proper information

If you've chosen a certain park as the destination of your wildlife-watching adventure, you'll need to acquire all the necessary information that you're able to find concerning the place. Each park is pretty much unique and "comes with" specific guidelines. For instance, get informed about the minimum distance for wildlife watching or food storage requirements. Also, once you're minutes away from hitting the trail, read the park rules once more.

#4 Eyes on the road, sir

It's not so hard to assume that getting hit by a vehicle isn't something animals in their natural habitat look forward to. Some of these encounters might turn out to be deadly, and sometimes roads do cut through various animal habitats or migration paths. Therefore, to take part in safe and responsible wildlife watching, make sure you respect speed limits and keep your eyes on the road for wildlife that might be crossing it. Once you notice you've come to the right spot for wildlife watching, park your vehicle off the road into a designated pull-out that's meant to protect wildlife and other motorized folks. If you're a Florida native, you might even live pretty close to a natural reservation site. Cities next to wildlife are always on the list of great places in the state. That being said, Florida citizens should be extra careful when traversing near or through these sites.

#5 If you notice something's wrong, contact the WI DNR

In other words: if you see something, say something—an important way to practice safe and responsible wildlife watching. If you notice sick or dead animals, if they simply appear to act strange, or if they start to approach you, inform the DNR. Lastly, let's say you've noticed some wildlife watchers that don't act according to the rules. Kindly ask them to think about their behavior. If they refuse, you can reach out to local authorities.

#6 Don't feed the animals

Okay, this one is a bit on the obvious side, don't you agree? However, it's nevertheless important that we put some emphasis on it since feeding the animals will most probably lead to a bunch of serious issues. For instance, sharing your food or simply being too close to animals will enhance the risk of disease transmission between people and wildlife. Some animals (such as gorillas, for instance) are very susceptible to a good number of human infections. We're talking about flu or measles or even TBC. Also, once the animals get used to expecting food from human watchers, they tend to be aggressive and bold, which will most likely increase the risk of conflict.

#7 Adopt the leave-no-trace philosophy

Even though traces of nature and things you've seen in the great outdoors should say forever with us, there should be no trace of us left behind in the wildlife surrounding that we've visited. In other words, our presence shouldn't make something you'd call a lasting impression on a natural area that we've visited. All in all: just try to keep your impact on flora and fauna inside a natural park to a bare minimum. Be gentle to your surroundings and leave no trash behind your party.

#8 Give them some space, will you?

When observing wildlife in its natural habitat, the things you do should never have any significant impact on animal behavior. Of course, if you notice animals are fleeing, that's among the universal signs of disturbance in wildlife. However, different species will, of course, react differently. Therefore, here's what you want to do: before you hit the road toward your outdoor adventure, grab some info on the wildlife warning signs that will alert you once you're too close to the animals you're observing. Pay attention to all animals that are within your range, and watch out for signs of agitation. If you're into bird-watching, for instance, you'll want to check for head-bobbing, increased vocalizations, and adult members that are leaving their nests. 

Closing thoughts on safe and responsible wildlife watching

Okay, folks, these are some tips you'll want to follow if you're into safe and responsible wildlife watching (and you have to be into it). You should always keep in mind that nature is sometimes more delicate than we tend to think. People need to understand that mutual respect between wild animals and humans is the only way to better inter-specie "communication."

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