Wildlife observation continues to be a highlight of camping trips. From birds to rabbits, reptiles to white-tailed deer, various wildlife species offer an abundant supply of natural entertainment. Observing wildlife in its natural environment can be pleasing in many ways, which normally becomes a highlight of a springtime camping or hiking excursion. Wildlife and human interactions can be a positive experience for both — if common sense, respect and space are kept between animal and observer.
If the goal of the outing is to observe wildlife as close as possible, then being aware of a few facts will create less stress for the wild ones. When children are included, and hopefully they are, the experience can be even more rewarding as long as their curiosity is controlled. Getting as close as possible to the animal is fun and exciting, especially for photography or field guide studies. But getting too close will result in unnecessary stress for animal. Simply keeping a comfortable space between you and the animal, it will encourage the animal to go about mostly on its natural routine, which is what you came to see.
Spring is the birthing and young rearing season, so keeping a comfortable zone is extremely important. Pestering a nest or den site may cause the parents to abandon their young with the intention of luring the "danger" away from the babies. If you discover a seemingly abandoned wild baby, resist the desire to tote it back to the campsite to show it off. Young wildlife are taken by humans from what seems to be an orphaning event, but in reality, the wildlife parents are likely within eyesight. So leaving the newborn critter alone is the best bet for survival. Use binoculars to ensure a safe but close up view of the targeted wildlife without distraction of interaction.
Public designated wildlife areas are designed and managed for quality, zero-impact wildlife observing. These areas stir with wildlife, which are happily performing in their natural habitat and nearly all campgrounds have one within a short walk or drive away. The success of wildlife viewing areas relies on ethical participation from observer. On popular, often used hiking trails, signage along trails or walkways provides useful and interesting information about the wild residents. The signage also orders users to obey a few regulations that keep the looker and the looked at, at a compatible distance apart. Obeying these rules of wildlife areas is beneficial to both parties — and sometimes, it's the law.
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