Safe viewing - gpwalsh
We are asked all time, "How close were you?" So, we wanted to talk about what is "too close."

First let me start off by saying that all park's services have a defined safe or minimum viewing distance. And, they have those for good reason, you should be following them. But, in time, if you are a frequent viewer you will find yourself much closer that those guidelines. That is not to say that you were breaking any rules or even that you would now be in danger. Hikers, fisherman, and even hunters encounters bears, other predators, or just large game in general, well within the so called "safe" distance.

Truth be told, many animal activists do not believe that there is a standard value to safe viewing. The real fact here, is that every animal is different, as well as every situation. So how do you know if you are too close.

Safety First! Remember that the animals are wild and have a mind of their own. We do not speak their language, so pushing the limits will eventually result in something. Even squirrels can be dangerous...if they bite you, they can carry disease.

Most animals will let you know if you are too close. Their physical behavior should be obvious. Stressed bears will often show antsy-ness. I would say we have seen this most often whether being approached or if someone is blocking their path. Also, if another bear is approaching or blocking.

Typically misunderstood behavior would be standing up or sniffing. Bears do those to investigate. They have an excellent sense of smell, and are often shorter than the brush when on all four's.

Other animals that can be, but typically go un-confrontational, are: Bison, Moose, Elk, Deer, Rodents, Eagles, Gulls, Geese, Wolves, Seals... just to name a few.

So what to do when you find yourself closer than you should be?

Its typically a good idea to make your presence known, normal talking voice, standing tall, and up-wind (so your smell is more detectible) if possible. Do not try and hide, avoid turning your back, and do not run!! Do not call or bait the animals in, or talk like you are talking to a baby.

Personally, the larger the group of viewers, the greater the distance should be. If you ever encounter a bear by yourself (really close), that is how a bear feels with a large encroaching group of people....not actually fear, but not knowing what is going to happen...

The best advise it to pay attention and don't test the limits. Remember your behavior can result in serious injury to yourself or those around you, and unfortunately the dispatching of the animal involved.

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