There is nothing more exciting than a wildlife sighting in the actual wild. It beats the zoo by like 1000. We search out places where we might gain access to some of these animals in their natural habitats, or sometimes our meeting them is chance and unexpected. But there is a reason the term is WILDlife. Don't ruin the moment by being "that guy." You the one - the guy who tries to take a selfie with a bison, or pick up a rattlesnake, or collect all the starfish from the beach and take them home where they dry up and get thrown away 2 weeks later. Trying to raise my tiny humans to be the opposite of "that guy" has brought out a few basic guidelines.
No matter the animal, no matter the size, we need to respect that we are in their home, invading their life. Respect looks different depending on the animal. Sometimes it's not trying to feed them, sometimes it's not collecting them, sometimes it's leaving a habitat alone. It almost always means keeping your distance, observing from afar and letting them go about their lives. Unless of course you are a Disney princess. Then you should round them up so they can come home and clean your house and raise your children.
Know Before You Go
Understand what animals you might encounter where you're going and how to avoid or manage any sightings. Of course, you can still find surprises, but being prepared and informing yourself can help keep everyone safe. I was recently preparing for an alpine hike and learned that there had been a particularly aggressive mountain goat on the trail. The research says to give them a wide berth and to, ahem, *relieve myself* at least 50 feet from the trail. Google is the smartest.
Beware the Bear
For the last 20 years, black bear populations in many of the 50 states have grown steadily. I remember as a kid, you only heard about bears in the wildest and most remote areas, but today, black bears are thriving in many states and are a common sighting. Bears generally avoid people so if you're in bear country, make sure that you're making plenty of noise. You can do this by hiking in groups, singing, or even using bells so that they'll hear you coming and have time to move. If you do happen upon one that seems to notice you, stand your ground and make yourself big, don't shrink or run. If you can, back away calmly and slowly but keep your eye on the bear. I ran into a mama bear and her 3 cubs once, in a very remote part of Alaska. We were 20 yards away and had a pretty good staring contest until she must have decided I wasn't a threat because she disappeared into the woods behind her cubs. I was frozen for at least a minute. I'm so lucky that I'm legendary at staring contests.
All jokes aside, it really is up to us to keep wildlife wild.
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Brooke Ewing. You can find her on Instagram @brookenorma.