Wild animals need space, not selfies

By on September 5, 2018 with 3 Comments

It could have been a heartwarming story but it quickly turned into tragedy. Earlier this week, numerous media outlets reported that a moose swam across Lake Champlain, making it all the way from New York to Vermont. But once the animal reached the shore to rest, he was surrounded by a crowd of people with cameras, perhaps eager to get their “moose selfies.” Frightened by the noise and the crowds, the moose turned back, reentered the water, and ultimately drowned of exhaustion.

This death could have possibly been avoided had the people on shore backed up a little and given the moose room to recover. A biologist has since suggested that brainworm parasites could have caused the moose to drown, but even if that were the case, the crowding no doubt exacerbated the situation. And this sort of tragic story is becoming only too familiar.

Last year, a dolphin calf died in Spain, clearly stressed out and frightened, after being passed around by hundreds of people for selfies. Earlier this year, a man in India was mauled to death by a bear after he reportedly tried to take a selfie with the animal. In Yellowstone National Park, people regularly get too close to bison and bears to get photos.

Encountering a beautiful animal in the wild can be exhilarating, and frequently our first instinct is to get closer to the animal to seize this memorable moment for posterity. Even if the animal appears agitated and afraid, we ask ourselves, what’s one quick photo?

But as these incidents show, getting up close to wildlife can have unintended and dangerous consequences. Crowding a wild animal who is trying to get away can lead to panic and result in the animal causing harm to humans, self-injury, or its ultimate demise.

Harbor seals living at the Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla, California, have been harassed for years by individuals wanting to take selfies with these animals. This is against federal law, but people try it anyway. The beach is closed to the public for several months during the pupping season to protect the mothers and pups resting in the rookery, as a constant onslaught of people disturbs the seals and can separate moms from pups. Moreover, a bite delivered from a defensive seal’s sharp teeth is a public safety issue.

Wild animals are fascinating but when we are lucky enough to encounter them, we need to respect their limits, back up and give them space. We also need to pay attention to signs of potential agitation, provocation and actions that could signal the animal is feeling harassed.

It is understandable that people want to memorialize an incredible moment with wildlife. Such experiences and encounters are often the reason people commit to the protection of these amazing animals in the first place. How sad and terrible then when such interactions produce poor outcomes for the animals involved.

Photographing an animal can be done safely and respectfully, from a distance, that way you will have images that last you forever, reminding you how lucky you were to be in that moment.

Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Doris Muller says:

    Thank you for addressing the intrusive behavior of humans upon wildlife. In so many areas we are societal puppets, responding to the natural environment in a conscienceless standard fashion: We are taught that killing, or disrupting, that which we fear or that which annoys us is the only way to address nature’s differences. We need to understand that humans are the invaders in most of nature’s destruction.

    I have four little neighbor children, of whom the oldest is eight, who like to spend time at my house. The situation has given me a great opportunity to sow seeds of living a compassionate vegan lifestyle, and to encourage them to change the way they have been taught to see nature. They are not allowed to kill any insects on my property, and they are encouraged to trap and release insects that get in their house, including spiders. They are introduced to various neighborhood wildlife habitats, and they are discouraged from destroying them, including those of rats.

    I have four dogs, who, of course, have different personalities. One little dog is very fearful of strangers, noises, and rowdy behavior–that’s the way she came to me. The children are being taught that animals speak through their body language. A little seven years old boy, who is fascinated by this concept, now often asks “what is (animal’s name) saying?”

    Sad to say,unfortunately, too many adults have not learned to respect animal body language, or to respect the animal’s living environment. They insist on intruding to satisfy their personal wants, regardless of the consequences to the victims.

    “Humans aren’t the only species on earth, we just act like it.”

  2. Mikal Deese says:

    There are almost three times as many humans living now as there were when I was born. We are taking up way more than our share of the space. The earth does not belong exclusively to humans, yet we refuse to address (or even acknowledge) human overpopulation. There is only so much space on our ball of rock.

  3. Mariann says:

    This is the stupidity of man… all the way. It’s one of those things where you ask “what were they thinking?”

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