Wildlife Safety: How to Respect and Protect Nature While Hiking-Appalachian Outfitters

Wildlife Safety: How to Respect and Protect Nature While Hiking

Publish date

Is making wildlife safety while hiking a priority even possible? Absolutely it is. Incorporating Leave No Trace hiking principles can protect nature whilst not detracting from the quality of your camping immersion – you can still fully enjoy the stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife without harming or disturbing the environment. All it takes is a bit of knowledge and goodwill. This guide will help you understand how to minimize your hiking impact on wildlife and give you ideas and tips regarding eco-friendly hiking gear.

Understanding Wildlife Safety Hiking

It’s not untenable to argue that hiking is inherently harmful to the environment. What we treat as an opportunity for a weekend getaway functions as the natural habitat for many animals. 

For the most part, however, any damage we’re capable of causing is easily preventable by implementing basic steps to protect nature while hiking and respecting the wilderness. The overarching goal revolves around preserving the environment for the next generation after us so that they may also interact with nature. 

As such, a number of common sense, eco-friendly camping principles were established, known in the hiking community as Leave No Trace.

Here are some key points worthy of consideration to protect the wildlife on your next adventure:

1. Keep a Respectable Distance 

Getting unnecessarily close to an animal is strictly a bad idea. Disturbing an animal in its habitat could cause it to feel threatened, risking both your and its safety. Stay at a far enough distance at all times. Instead of taking close-up shots, arm yourself with a camera with a capable zoom lens.

2. Stay on the Trail Unless Absolutely Necessary

A couple of steps off to the side could be enough to begin to trample on foliage, eventually eroding it and widening the trail, causing a vicious spiral of damage. Also, animals typically perceive us as a threat and want to avoid paths and areas frequented by humans. Sticking to the trail reduces the chances of stumbling upon a nest or burrow and disturbing them.

3. Do Not Feed the Animals

As soon as animals begin associating humans with access to an easy meal, they’ll start to get friendlier with us. For you, this might seem like a great photo-op for your Instagram feed. For them, it’s a death sentence, as wild animals that feel emboldened to approach us are deemed dangerous and put down preventatively. Additionally, some chemical compounds found in our food are toxic to animal digestive systems. Therefore, as tempting as it may be, animals in the wild should never be fed.

4. Research Animals in the Area

Knowing what you’re potentially going to come across will help prepare you for any eventuality. For example, if you plan on hiking in a hilly area inhabited by mountain lions, you’ll want to stay constantly vigilant and survey your surroundings at regular intervals. Like any big cats, these animals hunt by pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Doing your research and knowing what to expect is tremendously important.

5. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Stay alert and make noise, especially in areas with poor visibility or dense vegetation. This helps prevent surprise encounters with wildlife. Speaking or clapping occasionally can alert animals to your presence, giving them a chance to move away.

Leaving No Trace – Eco-Friendly Hiking Gear

Lastly, let’s discuss some additions (or replacements) to your hiking arsenal to help you continue on a greener trail. One of the key tenets of LNT is pack it in, pack it out. Essentially, leave the trail or campsite in exactly the same condition as you found it originally, disposing of any trash.

Of course, the fewer disposable and single-use items you pack, the less waste you’ll have to contend with. Here’s a list of eco-friendly hiking gear to use and tips to follow to protect wildlife:

  • Utilize reusable dishes and utensils
  • If you are buying, opt for biodegradable, environmentally friendly materials. Also, make sure whatever you do end up buying is long-lasting and durable enough to withstand the harsh conditions of the trail.
  • Bring self-made food packaged in multi-use containers, rather than meals in plastic packaging. Home-baked granola and protein bars immediately spring to mind.
  • On the topic of food, store it  securely in a way that is inaccessible to animals. This can be achieved by purchasing bear lockers and/or secure metal food containers. Hanging your supplies from trees or poles is also viable to keep them out of reach of raccoons or foxes.

    The Takeaway

    Hiking with wildlife is best done when no interaction occurs between you and the animals. That’s truly the only way to ensure the safety of both parties and preserve the pristine state of nature for decades to come. On top of practicing wildlife safety, be mindful of the “pack in it, pack it out” rule to not pollute the environment.

    You may also read: Seasonal Hiking Tips: How to Prepare for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Adventures

    Back to blog