Friday, September 11, 2009

Watching Wildlife

If you spend time in the woods, walking on trails, fishing or camping, you have looked up just in time to see an animal dive out of sight. Most animals see, hear or smell us long before we are aware of their presence. They pay attention to us and, depending on how far away we are and how we act, they decide to stay, defend themselves or flee.

There are ways ways that you can help blend into an animal's surroundings. (see below), but the first part of this is find places to watch wildlife. is an initiative by Watchable Wildlife, Inc., a non-profit working with communities across North America and around the world to help protect wildlife and wild areas.

They publish the popular Wildlife Viewing Guides that exist for most states,

Two great features on their site are search tools to find a particular species in your area, and a search to find watchable wildlife places.

I went to the species search and selected NJ and oystercatcher and it told me to try the Great Bay Boulevard Wildlife Management Area.

Then I tried the search for places and asked for a swamp area with watchable wildlife and got a result for the Dismal Swamp.

Here are some tips courtesy of the British Columbia Wildlife Watch:

  • Fade into the woodwork by wearing natural colors and unscented lotions. Clothes that don't rustle are best.
  • Keep your distance and use binoculars or scopes. This allows you to observe animals without disturbing them.
  • Sometimes you will 'see' more by sitting quietly for a while with your eyes closed. Your ears may hear what is not readily visible to your eyes.
  • Let animals eat their natural foods. Sharing your sandwich, or other foods, with them may harm their digestive systems that are adapted to natural foods. Animals may become conditioned to handouts, eventually losing their fear of people and/or vehicles. This may put them, and you, into potentially dangerous situations. Instead, spend some time to watch and learn what natural foods they prefer.
  • Be easy to be with by moving like molasses: slow, smooth and steady. If you must advance, take a roundabout route, never move directly toward an animal.
  • Avert your gaze as animals may interpret a direct stare as a threat.

Red Fox in NJ

  • Think like an animal. As a rule, the border between two habitats is a good place to see residents from both habitats.
  • Figure out the best time if day for viewing by imaging an animal's daily schedule. When does it feed? Rest? Bathe? Drink? Dawn and dusk are usually good bets. A dry, hot, sunny afternoon is not the best time to look.
  • Plants and the landscape are important parts of wildlife habitat. Please do not damage or remove them, and stay on designated trails or roads.
  • Keep pets on a leash at all times. Pets can harm wildlife, and reduce viewing opportunities.