Thursday, July 18, 2013

When Visiting the Refuge

By Donna Niemann

Our National Wildlife Refuge system consists of over 530 wildlife refuges.  These refuges are home to more than 700 types of birds, 220 varieties of mammals, 250 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 1,000 species of fish and countless invertebrates and plants. They provide havens for some 280 endangered species, from the Florida panther to the polar bear. While some are in remote areas, others are within an hour’s drive of many major cities. And - they attract approximately 45 million visitors each year, offering activities such as wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and environmental education.

45 million visitors…  That is a lot of people on lands set aside for wildlife. That’s right. It is their land, and we are merely visitors in their home. Wildlife refuges are not zoos. The animals are not caged in and on display for the enjoyment of visitors. They are in their homes. For some, it is merely a stopover spot on the way to their summer or winter homes, a sort of motel for many avian travelers. Human visitors need to remember a few important things. Some we will simply say are wildlife viewing tips.  Some are ethical points, things that people may not realize can actually disturb and or harm the wildlife that we are trying to help.

#1 - Remember that the animals you are looking at are WILD animals and this is their home, not a petting zoo.
#2 - Respect the environment. Follow the mottos,”Leave No Trace” or “
Take Nothing But Pictures & Leave Only Footprints”. 
#3 -
"Wake up with the birds." Arriving in the early morning (or late afternoon) when wildlife is most active and will allow you to see much more. Animals tend to rest in the heat of the day.
#4 - Wildlife viewing from your vehicle, or a blind when possible, usually results in a closer experience.
#5 – Do nothing that can be considered “Harassing the Wildlife”- do not chase or allow your children or pets to chase wildlife or try to approach them, for their peace of mind and your safety.
#6 – Speed Limits are in place and radar enforced for your safety as well as the wildlife. The speed limit through along Refuge Road and Wildlife Drive is 20 miles per hour. (Law Enforcement)
#8 – Be aware of the Refuge rules and regulations (Hagerman NWR Rules) and permits that are required (Hagerman NWR Requirements)

To read more on the tips and ethics of wildlife/bird viewing and photography see these links;

Texas Parks and Wildlife – Wildlife Viewing Tips

American Birding Association (ABA) - Code of Ethics
*Note – While the ABA states the following in section 1(b) of the code of ethics: “Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area”, most national parks (not to mention state parks and National Wildlife Refuges) do indeed regard recordings of birds and playback as harassment of wildlife, thereby prohibiting it.

USDA Forests Service - Fishing Leave No Trace  - in particular please note “Dispose of Waste Properly, If you pack it in… Pack it out! If you see garbage, please carry it out, too. Monofilament fishing line can tangle and kill birds and small animals”, and it happens too often.

Texas Junior Naturalists, Wildlife Watchers Code of Ethics

NANPA – North American Nature Photography Association – PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL FIELD PRACTICES

For more information about the Friends of Hagerman NWR and events and activities for learning about wildlife at the Refuge –

Photos are from Refuge files.

1 comment: