Take a walk on the wild(life) side

Posted: Saturday, May 26, 2001

The Kenai Peninsula is home to enough wildlife to make everyone smile, from the most ardent photographer to the carload of people casually cruising the peninsula's highways and byways, enjoying whatever comes along.

To make the most of wildlife viewing opportunities, remember this is their natural habitat. You are guests in someone else's home. Give your host lots of room.

Fish and wildlife protection personnel encourage viewing wildlife from a distance, remembering their comfort zone is greater than humans'. While we are a social animal, wildlife generally are loners. And when hiking, be aware that animals' combined sensory abilities allow them to perceive your presence before you are aware of their's.

Viewing glasses make it possible to maintain distance. Knowing your needs before purchasing binoculars or a spotting scope will help ensure the right choice.

For some folks, compact binoculars work fine for catching glimpses of the Kenai's big game, such as moose and bear, under good light. But if bringing into focus that Dall sheep or mountain goat scrambling up a sheer mountain side is the goal, consider a spotting scope mounted on a tripod. Spotting scopes also work well for closing the distance between the viewer and the peninsula's winged habitants.

For low-light conditions, try full-sized binoculars with 50mm aperture lenses. Larger aperture lenses admit more light and give a wider field of vision.

When in the presence of wildlife, be sensitive to their behavior and aware of any changes. Remember to leave them a way out. The closer you get, the greater the chance they will react defensively or run off.

The family dog is best left at home, in the car or on leash. Some animals view dogs as aggressors. Others see them as a target. One view you don't want is your dog running toward you with an angry bear in pursuit.

Leave wounded or abandoned animals alone. Appearances can be deceiving and the parent may be close at hand. Wounded animals, especially bears, are neither happy nor safe and will be dealt with by the Alaska State Troopers or another agency when they receive your call.

Avoid nests, dens or calving areas. Human presence stresses the mother and young and causes mothers to become aggressive.

Feeding wildlife lures them into dangerous situations and almost always leads to a death sentence for the animal.

Harassing wildlife is illegal. The behavior of frightened animals is unpredictable and can create dangerous situations for them as well as us.

View wildlife with patience. Ensuring their comfort level will automatically increase yours.

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