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Wildlife viewing ethics

We all share a responsibility for conserving wildlife.
Bird watcher and wildlife photographer

Wildlife is a public resource, managed by public agencies for the benefit of the resource and people alike. As a member of the public, you share responsibility for conserving these wildlife resources. Part of this responsibility involves viewing an ethical and safe wildlife watcher, combining common sense and common courtesy in your approach to wildlife and your fellow viewers.

Here are some simple guidelines for ethical and safe viewing:

  • Keep a reasonable distance from wildlife. Use your binoculars and spotting scope rather than your feet, to get "closer" to your subject. If you get too close to an animal its behavior will change. It may stop feeding, look at you, vocalize, appear nervous or flee. If you note a change in behavior, back off slowly until you're out of the animal's "space".
  • Be a responsible steward of the land, both public and private. Follow marked trails where indicated and leave an area cleaner than you found it. Get permission in advance before entering private land.
  • Show consideration for other wildlife watchers and outdoor users. Speak quietly, move cautiously, and don't use tapes or calls that might interfere with the viewing experience. Leave pets at home. Some areas prohibit pets!
  • Leave seemingly abandoned wildlife alone. Young mammals and birds may appear to be orphaned when actually there is an adult waiting nearby until it is safe to return. Never feed wildlife.
  • Keep safety in mind when you venture outdoors. Whenever possible, use the "buddy system" and go wildlife watching with a friend. Sharing the experience is twice as fun.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry a small first aid kit, weatherproof matches, compass and space blanket in your pack in case of an unexpected overnight experience. A cell phone is a good idea, but there are still many areas in Massachusetts that have little or no service.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. New England is notorious for sudden weather changes. Carry extra layers of clothing with you. Seek safe shelter when storms approach.
  • Familiarize yourself with when and where activities like hunting, off-road vehicle and personal watercraft use are permitted. Having this information and planning accordingly can eliminate potential conflicts between wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation.
  • Report wildlife and recreation violations to site managers and the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.
  • Get involved! Become active with a conservation group and participate in environmental activities. As you learn about the outdoors, share your knowledge with others, especially children.

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