Thursday, August 1, 2019

Viewpoint: Respect Adirondack Wildlife

2013 at Limekiln Lake paddlers disturb nesting loonsI have been fortunate to see a moose on four different occasions since I’ve moved to the Adirondacks. I’ve only seen one bald eagle. My family jokes that I’m a bald eagle repellent as they seem to see bald eagles as frequently as I see squirrels.  That said, if my children tell me there is a bald eagle over the nearby river, if possible, I am in my car hoping to catch a glimpse. I’m in awe of the wildlife experiences I have and am grateful for each one.

I bring my camera everywhere and certainly appreciate anyone else who wants to witness one of the many wonderful wildlife residents of the Adirondack Park. I don’t appreciate when people start treating Adirondack wildlife as if they were zoo animals.

I’ve had friends relay stories about how they almost hit people that have gotten out of their cars to admire wildlife.  In 2012 a moose was loitering around Wilmington and caused a traffic jam of onlookers resulting in the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) euthanizing the animal. (It was in very poor health and also a safety concern).  Recently at Yellowstone Park a crowd of people encroached on the space of a wild bison and a young child was injured. Those crowded wildlife situations happen right here in the Adirondacks.

One concern I have is sharing wildlife locations on social media.  I’ve seen plenty of posts of people immediately announcing the location of various wildlife. Although I always appreciate the beautiful photos, I talk with my friends about not tagging the locations of the animals they see.  These are easily shared and can go viral, leading to the kind of notable crowding that recently occurred at the “poppy apocalypse” in California.

Again, I’m not asking people to never tell their friends about wildlife sightings, or ask where they saw or can see wildlife. I’m suggesting that perhaps it be done more privately.

Nor am I trying to tell anyone to not seek wildlife experiences. It is one of the many joys of being in the Adirondacks. But be smart about our new social media environment. Be safe by parking off the road as much as possible. And please, give wildlife plenty of space. This is the Adirondacks, not a zoo.

The 6th Leave No Trace Principle, “Respect Wildlife” says, in part:

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look.” Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animal’s ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases.

Read more about Leave No Trace principals HERE.

Photo: Paddlers disturb nesting loons in 2013 at Limekiln Lake (courtesy the Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation).

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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.

6 Responses

  1. Dave Bulmer says:

    This is an important article on respecting wildlife and Leaving No Trace. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Too many times, people in their interests of a great photo or wildlife “experience” get too close or put the animals in situations where they are uncomfortable or defensive. I do a lot of hiking and wildlife photography and am lucky enough to know of a few active Bald Eagle nesting sites in the Adirondacks and NYS. I do share my photos, but I NEVER let people know the exact locations, other than DEC when I have taken photos of banded eagles.

    A couple of years ago a moose died on Grand Isle in VT. of exhaustion. This moose was tracked from across Lake Champlain on the NY side. It swam across the lake. Trying to get to shore there were so many people that it kept going back in the water. It finally died due to drowning from exhaustion. This was solely caused by ignorant people in a rush for their personal wildlife viewing and experience.

    Stay in your car, give the animals space. Keep the locations private. I can’t even comment about the idiocy of those kayakers surrounding the Loon.

    • ADK Camper says:

      While I agree with your points of respecting wildlife. I’d like to clarify something: The moose that swam across the lake didn’t die because of people taking pictures. It’s brain had rotted due to brain worms.

  2. Boreas says:

    Not only are these good principles to follow, there are also laws against harassing, “worrying”, and feeding wildlife. Keep your distance. If you notice an animal in distress, either call DEC or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. If you spend much time outdoors, these are good numbers to have in your Contacts list.

  3. Douglas Gerhardt says:

    Diane – I could not agree with you more! I worked as a park ranger in Grand Teton (GRTE) and witnessed first hand the daftness of people encountering wild animals – moose, bears. . . They strived to take pictures and get as close as they could. Traffic jams at Oxbow turnout were a daily occurrence. While they showed no respect, at the time the Internet and social media were not around. So, they did the oddest thing – they told people about their experience afterwards, when they actually saw them. None of this social media tagging etc. It seems people visit the ADKs to get away from a bit of hustle and bustle and connectedness. I too would urge more respect for wildlife and less social media tagging. Be in the moment, share it, if at all later. Maybe, just maybe folks can learn again that an animal siting can be appreciated simply by internalizing it and thinking of days gone by when witnessing it was really all anyone hoped to do. Gotta go, I see a bald eagle flying by – full plumage (no joke)

  4. rc says:

    Don’t forget the birds!

    Twice this summer I’ve spoken to people who paddle too close to loon families because they “just want to get a picture”. They think it’s a kick when the loons start screaming and fast-paddling to escape. “It’s great video” one clown said.

    When you think you’re getting too close, you already ARE too close.

  5. Marsha Akins says:

    Thank you for this. The trend to be up close and personal with wildlife is invasive for the animals. We are guests in their home. Leave them be.

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