Tips for Wildlife Watching


Wildlife watching

Steve Hildebrand, USFWS

Spotting wildlife is the single best reason for visiting wilderness for many people.

Learning about wildlife habits and habitat before venturing into wilderness will increase your chances of an encounter. It will also help keep you from unintentionally harming them and their home.

A little preparation can go a long way to increasing your chances of eyeing spectacular wildlife.

Where should you go?

Our nation’s national wildlife refuges provide sanctuary to wild creatures and wonderful opportunities for viewing them. Check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s handy map to find a refuge in your area. Or search for more public recreation areas with wildlife viewing near you.

When should you go?

Each season presents a different occasion for viewing wildlife. For instance, spring and fall bird migrations give you a chance to see many unusual species.

Time of day is important, too. Visiting at dawn and dusk, when many animals feed, offers the best moments to spot wildlife.

What should you do?

There are a few ways you can increase your odds of a wildlife encounter:

  • Leave pets at home. The sound and scent of your pooch will scare wildlife away.
  • Move as stealthily as possible. Better yet, choose a comfortable spot and remain still.
  • Blend with your environment. Dress in earth-tones colors and forgo colognes and scented products.
  • If you are looking for birds, get our tips for birdwatching.

The ethics of wildlife encounters

Human visitors can change wildlife behaviors and habitat for the worse. Adhere to these guidelines to prevent adverse consequences:

  • Never feed wildlife
  • Do not interfere with mating, predation or other natural behavior
  • Keep a respectful distance
  • Preserve habitat by following “leave no trace” principles

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