By: Mecca R. Dennehy
When we venture out into the wilderness, we know we aren’t the only ones out there. The outdoors is home to an array of wildlife, so we have to know how to respectfully traverse their stomping grounds and make the least amount of impact as we can. Caring for wildlife in the outdoors also doesn’t mean feeding nuts to squirrels or trying to help a bear cub. We’ve rounded up some helpful tips to keep in mind on your next adventure so you can safely explore while caring for the wildlife that lives there.
Before you head out on your hike, read up on what animals you may encounter there. If you’re in bear or cougar country, check with your local ranger on trail closures for sightings. Make sure you know how to react if you are ever surprised by an encounter with any animals that may be in the area so you can react appropriately. While you’re in the outdoors, always be on alert. If you are in a National Park or areas with high-traffic areas of bears or other large wildlife (Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, etc) always be respectful of the animal’s space.
If you have your furry friend with you, always make sure dogs are allowed at the places you are visiting. Many National Parks don’t allow dogs since they risk the protection of local plants and wildlife, as well as their own protection against large animals.
Leave No Trace
As always, whenever venturing out into the outdoors, always pack in and pack out, stay on-trail, and make as little impact on the land and animals that live there as you can. Try to keep your impact as little as possible on the wildlife by staying quiet, observing from a distance, keeping your food in a safe place if you are camping, and keeping dogs leashed so they don’t try to chase wild animals.
If you see an animal who is visibly hurt or acting strange, don’t try to approach it! Instead, call your local wildlife center or park ranger and inform them of the animal. A wandering baby bison or bear cub may look like it’s in need of help, when in reality we would be solidifying its death by intervening (we all remember the poor baby bison who was put into a tourist’s car because “it looked cold”).
We all love to share photos of our adventures, but make sure you do so in an appropriate way. If you take a “selfie” with a wild animal, make sure you stay the correct distance away from the animal. Don’t try to feed animals to get them to come closer to you for a photo-op. When sharing photos of wildlife, add information on what you loved about experiencing their presence, or give a shout-out to the National Park or wildlife area that made it possible for you to view these amazing animals. Sharing responsibly will help people get a better understanding of how to appropriately care for wildlife in the outdoors.
The ability to experience wildlife in their natural habitat, the outdoors, is such a privilege and a gift. If you plan on heading into the outdoors, be sure to respect your surroundings and make as little of an impact as possible on the land and the animals that live there. Happy exploring!
About the Author:
Mecca R. Dennehy
Mecca is an adventure writer and photographer based in Oregon and loves everything the rainy PNW has to offer. You can find her hiking to alpine lakes or camping with her husband and her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She is also an adventure wedding and elopement photographer and loves to capture couples as they start the most epic adventure of all together.