Travel blog

Tips for Safely Watching Wildlife in National Parks

Posted by YMT Vacations on Dec 3, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Couple walking in a national park.

Observing wildlife in national parks is a magical experience. Seeing how animals act and interact with each other in their own territory is an experience you will remember forever. The advantage of visiting a National Park is that you don’t need fancy equipment or gear to find wildlife. There are plenty of paths and guided tours where animals roam freely throughout the year.

As a visitor observing wildlife, National Parks do have rules for the safety of wildlife and people alike. Here are wildlife safety tips to be aware of during your guided tour.

Familiarize Yourself with Park Rules

Every park has its own set of rules in regard to observing wildlife responsibly. These regulations ensure the safety of visitors and natural resources within the park. For example, they typically include:

  • Minimum viewing distances
  • Food storage requirements
  • Lists of prohibited areas
  • Rules on electronic tracking of animals

Take the time to review park rules before you start your tour.

Do Not Disturb the Animals

Watch wildlife from a safe distance to avoid disturbing their natural routine. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens to get a closer look at animals. Approaching animals, or alerting them to your presence, can be dangerous. Federal law prohibits the following actions when it comes to wildlife:

  • Feeding
  • Touching
  • Teasing
  • Frightening
  • Intentionally disturbing

Remember that wildlife in parks is unpredictable. Animals may take the slightest noise or movement as a form of aggression. 

Stay Alert When Driving

Follow speed limits and park rules when driving through a National Park. Vehicle collisions are one of the most deadly encounters for wildlife in parks. Many roads cut through natural habitats and migration routes.

When driving through National Parks:

  • Pull the vehicle off the road into designated pull-out areas to view wildlife
  • Be aware of peak areas and times when animals are most active
  • Keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you
  • Use your high-beam lights to increase your visibility at night

Leave No Trace of Your Visit

Person picking up trash in nature.

There have been plenty of incidents where visitors have left park grounds in worse shape than they found it. The idea of “leave no trace” is to minimize the impact of your visit on the natural surroundings. For example, tourists should dispose of waste properly so animals do not come across garbage or recyclables. Be mindful of any impact your actions may have on the environment.

Leave Natural Objects Undisturbed

All of the natural objects found within a National Park are federally protected and should remain in the park. Everything from pinecones to rocks should be left in place, and visitors should not disturb them (although some visitors unfortunately don’t follow the rules).

Give Back Responsibly

The more people remove items from parks, the more depleted the environment will become over time. If you want souvenirs to take back home, shop responsibly in the gift shop. Proceeds go toward maintaining the park.

Alert Staff To Problems

During your visit, report any unusual occurrences to park rangers. For example, alert staff if you come across a sick or injured animal or if you see other visitors breaking park rules.

The location of ranger stations is noted on maps of the park, or call main park number to get connected.

Know Before You Go

National Park visitors have the responsibility to respect wildlife and the environment. It is best to understand park rules in order to keep yourself and your companions safe. You can find guidelines and rules by visiting park websites ahead of your trip.

Observing wildlife is a memorable experience. Enjoy your vacation by witnessing the beauty of nature, while remaining safe.

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Topics: US National Parks, Travel Tips