Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Wildlife Watching Tips

Respect Wildlife, Wildlife Habitat, and Others

Watch wildlife from a safe distance
using binoculars or a spotting scope.

Watching wildlife is a great way to connect with nature and spend time outdoors. DEC encourages people to enjoy watching wildlife in a legal, safe manner that does not harm or harass wildlife.

Protect Wildlife

  • View wildlife from a distance using binoculars or a spotting scope to observe the natural behavior of animals.
    • It's safer for wildlife - especially vulnerable populations like young animals, breeding and nesting birds, and wintering raptors.
    • It's safer for you - animals may attack if they perceive you pose a threat to them or their young.
  • Avoid flushing or disturbing wildlife when watching or photographing them, and NEVER purposely chase wildlife!
    • Flushing wildlife will lead to stress, deplete stored energy, and can cause death or decreased reproduction.
  • Keep quiet, move slowly, and be patient. Let animals come to you.
  • Do not feed wildlife - feeding can create dependence on humans and increase disease in wildlife.
  • Use your vehicle as a blind. Staying inside often allows for closer and longer observations without disturbing wildlife.
  • Leave young wild animals where you find them.
  • All migratory birds are protected by state and federal law. Do not collect birds, eggs, or feathers.

Protect Habitat

  • Stay on existing roads, trails, or pathways to avoid trampling vegetation.
  • Visit wildlife refuges and other public natural areas.
  • Leave the area as you found it.

Be Safe and Respect Others

Zoom in using your camera lens to avoid
disturbing wildlife, like this spotted turtle.
  • Know and observe the laws, rules, and regulations governing the area you are visiting.
  • Respect private property. Never enter private property without permission. Trespassing is illegal.
  • Park in designated parking areas or on the road shoulder completely out of travel lanes.
  • Use caution when leaving or entering your vehicle and use caution when crossing roads.
  • Stay well out of travel lanes and be aware of road traffic at all times.
  • Be considerate of others around you.
  • Group actions have magnified effects.
    • Ensure that all members of the group know and follow the above guidelines.
    • Monitor the behavior of group members and ensure they act responsibly.

Report Violators

  • Purposely disturbing, flushing, or chasing wildlife is harassment and is ILLEGAL.
  • If you witness such activity, please document it and report it to the DEC Dispatch (1-877-457-5680).

Questions? Send an email to DEC's Bureau of Wildlife.