The sixth Leave No Trace (LNT) principle is Respect Wildlife. This principle is important when encountering animals both in the wilderness and around town. The best policy when dealing with wildlife is to observe from afar. Observing wildlife from a distance minimizes the disturbance to the animals, their habitat and reduces the chance of an altercation.
Unfortunately, YouTube is full of instances when people thought that getting a little closer would be a good idea. Instead of getting close to wildlife, bring binoculars and/or a camera and watch/take pictures from a distance. Another easy way to avoid disturbing animals is to travel quietly and give them wide berths so they can continue along their normal path. If possible, you want to avoid making animals flee and never pursue one that does flee. Even though a hike may be just a stroll for you, all of the animals are fighting for survival and wasting energy fleeing from noisy hikers may hinder survival of the animal down the road. The only exception to traveling quietly is if you are traveling in bear country. If you suspect bears may be around it is advised to make some noise to avoid startling a bear. Consulting the local Ranger Station, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, or other local authorities is a wise decision if you are unsure about the wildlife you may encounter.
Some animals may be curious about you and may give you the chance to get very close. In these situations one should never touch, feed or attempt to pick up any animal. Being handled may stress the animal, the oil or sun screens may react negatively with the animals skin (amphibians especially) and all animals are wild and could inflict harm to us. Most animals have some kind of defense mechanism that could end up making you smell horrible, give you a disease or inflict physical harm. Also, young animals contaminated by human scents may be abandoned by their parents.
The other LNT principles come in handy here as well. Wh... [More]