Just like humans, animals need their personal space. Humans approaching can be very scary for wildlife. Think about it from their point of view. A typically much larger stranger that they can’t understand is approaching them and they don’t know why. Sounds a little spooky, right?
A scared animal can be pretty unpredictable and threaten your safety as well as their own since:
- Animals may carry diseases that can be transmitted to us
- Animals may act in self defense by charging or biting
Keeping a distance helps keep wildlife wild:
- Keeping your distance from an animal has the added benefit of keeping an animal from noticing you. If an animal does not notice you, it’s more likely to “act natural” and do something really cool, like catch its prey!
- When we disturb an animal’s natural behavior, we prevent it from getting food, nesting, feeding its young, and remaining in a relaxed state.
- You may find that some animals are not afraid of you. Many assume that just because a deer is docile, that they can get close and feed one by hand. Please do not do this. Feeding deer this way makes them less likely to seek food on their own, food that is healthier for them. You may also be putting other people in danger when you get too close to a deer.
- If we keep disturbing animals, they may not come back. If we get too close to them, particularly by feeding them, they may have to be removed.
So a wild animal needs its space, but how far back should you stay? Picture yourself and a wild animal on a football field. The yardage (distance in yards) on the field is marked by white lines, helping you to make sure you keep your distance from the wild animal.
Whitetail deer (and most wildlife)
25 yards/ 75 feet
15 yards/ 45 feet
*for boats and paddleboards, 50 yards/ 150 feet
8 yards/ 25 feet
25 yards/ 75 feet
20 yards/ 60 feet
33 yards/ 100 feet
Remember that we can enjoy animals and their natural behaviors, but it’s up to us to keep them natural.