Can I pet the alligators? A refresher on ethicially viewing wildlife

Of course, the answer to the title is a strong no.

And it’s a silly title to a blog.


Now, in summer, when there are so many young animals and mothers out and about on the trails, it’s a good time to refresh all of our minds about how to view wildlife.

Ida at BRS

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

“It’ s rewarding to have close up views of animals, but it’ s easy for even the most responsible wildlife watchers to inadvertently put themselves, or the animals they seek, at risk. Keep the folling tips in mind as you venture out into Florida’ s natural areas.

Every animal differs in how close it will allow you to approach before it pauses in its feeding, nesting or resting activities, or flees altogether. Such disturbances can be disastrous for animals, especially the cumulative effect of frequent disruptions, a common occurrence at beaches, waterways and other busy wildlife viewing sites. When disturbed, an animal uses up valuable energy reserves that are no longer available for other uses, such as migrating, tending to young, mating or escaping predators. A fleeing parent may abandon a nest and risk exposing eggs or young to temperature extremes or predators.

Florida box turtle

How can you tell if you’ re too close? Look for the obvious: Has the animal stopped feeding? Is it looking at you?  Does it appear aggressive or skittish? Did the animal begin to move away or fly into the air?  Is it dive-bombing you or circling overhead? Do you see distraction displays such as a bird exhibiting a “broken wing?”  These behaviors are all progressive signs of disturbance.

If you see any of these signs, move away immediately. When possible, use binoculars or zoom lenses to extend your view. If an adult animal allows you to approach, something’ s wrong. It may be sick, injured or aggressive. If you’ re suspicious, contact the local site manager.”

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