Bears, venomous caterpillars, snakes—if you’re playing outdoors, there’s a good chance of encountering these creatures. Whether you’re going for a hike or heading to a playground, you may come across wildlife, and there is something VERY important we wanted to remind you of—this is their home; we are the visitors. Any time we’re a guest, we should be on our best behavior and follow the house rules. Here are a few things to keep in mind when encountering wildlife in the outdoors:
- Do a little research. Be aware of the kind of wildlife you could encounter in a certain region. For example, snakes come with the territory when you’re outdoors, but do you know which are venomous in our region? Do you know what to do if you’re bitten? What should you do if you encounter a bear? Some quick mental prep before you head out can help you be better equipped for potential encounters.
- Do not disturb. As we mentioned, this is the animals’ home. Whether you encounter a habitat or the wildlife itself, walk slowly away as to not disturb it. Their behavior is unpredictable, and encouraging interaction can be detrimental to both your health and the health of the animal.
- Observe from a distance. Just because you shouldn’t interact with wildlife doesn’t mean you can’t observe it. You should just do so from a safe distance (at least 25 feet is the National Park Service recommendation). Not only will all parties be safer, but you’ll actually get to observe these animals’ natural behavior when they think humans aren’t around.
- Don’t feed the animals. A fast-food meal isn’t good for us; can you imagine what it does to a wild animal? Not only is feeding them bad for the animals, but it encourages them to be more comfortable with humans, creating more opportunity for dangerous interactions. When we say “don’t feed them,” we’re not just talking about the obvious bears or deer; that also goes for smaller creatures like squirrels and ducks (yes, even ducks). These animals are equipped to find their own food; let them.
- Follow the Leave No Trace Principles. These seven principles are gaining a lot more traction lately as people’s time outdoors is increasing significantly. Everything we’ve outline above can be encompassed in these principles. Additionally, it encourages you to pack out your trash, which is helpful to both animals AND humans!
Thank you all for your passion for the outdoors and protecting them! We can all live harmoniously if we follow a few simple “house” rules and let the wildlife be just that–wild!