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Getting Close to Wildlife

What quickens in us when a family of deer walk across the road? Have you ever wanted to see a cougar? Ever wanted to NOT see a cougar? A pair of binoculars and a sense of curiosity are all you need to start exploring Oregon's wildlife viewing opportunities.

Healthy ecosystems, with lots of native wildlife, help define Oregon; and people want to get out of their houses and offices and see it, hear it, and even smell it. The US Fish and Wildlife Service found that Oregonians spent $769.4 million on wildlife viewing in Oregon in 2001.

Following are some basics on getting close to wildlife:

  • Slow down. The most essential ingredient to appreciate the secrets of nature is patience.
  • If you visit by vehicle, remember that some wildlife are not alarmed by an automobile. Your vehicle can become a blind from which to observe, hear, or smell. It's the automobile occupants that may cause distress.
  • Look for evidence of an animal's former presence: tracks, hair, feathers, shed skin, excrement, burrow or tree excavations, and chewed, rubbed, or trampled vegetation.
  • Your nose can locate wildlife that sight or sound may not detect. For example, Rocky Mountain elk emanate a strong 'barn-yard' odor that can give away their presence even at a distance. The smell of a bushy-tailed woodrat's nest is so distinctively like turpentine that alert observers in proper habitat can find the precise location.
  • Spend some time reading local field guides. Get to know the habitat, physical appearance, and behavior of your quarry. That understanding will increase your probability for seeing animals, and heighten the exhilaration of an encounter.
  • Leave the dogs at home. They're usually not allowed in wildlife preserves


Authored by John Ame, Science Writer