The dog days of summer, where temperatures climb and people head outdoors, have nearly arrived. It is especially important to keep animals in mind during this active season—not just the companions in our homes but also the wild animals we may encounter while hiking in a national park or visiting a kid-friendly attraction. With some planning, you can ensure that your pets are protected pets, your outdoor activities don’t have adverse effects on habitats and your vacation fund does not inadvertently support exploitative wildlife attractions.
The opportunity to see wildlife firsthand draws millions of people into nature each year. But breathtaking animal sightings can quickly turn dangerous when people get too close. Just last month, a woman was gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park after approaching within 10 feet of the animal.
Human presence also harms wild animals; overcrowding stresses animals and inhibits their ability to perform natural behaviors such as foraging and nurturing their young. Continued exposure to humans, especially humans who are feeding them or leaving easily accessible garbage, can cause wild animals to become food conditioned and or habituated to us. These animals then learn to approach people, potentially resulting in human-wildlife conflicts. (Just recently, we told you about Chip, a horse who arrived at our Black Beauty Ranch animal sanctuary from Assateague Island who had been fed so often by tourists he associated humans with food and became aggressive.) When park managers are unable to deter animals who have become a threat to public safety as a result of people feeding them, they may end up being forced to kill the animals.
When visiting animals in nature, remember to stay at least 75 feet (about the length of two school buses) from most wild animals, such as moose, bighorn sheep and mule deer, and at least 300 feet (about the length of a football field) from bears and wolves.
Lead Image: Douala the lioness now lives at our sanctuary in Texas, Black Beauty Ranch, after being rescued from a roadside zoo in Canada. Meredith Lee/The HSUS.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.