Look, but don’t approach

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It should probably go without saying, but it can’t. Do not approach wildlife.

Wildlife can be dangerous. Especially the dangerous wildlife. But even the not-so-dangerous wildlife can be dangerous. Especially if the not-so-dangerous wildlife is injured, cornered and in fear. Or, angry.

One of the things that is taught in hunter education and even more so in bowhunter education classes is how to approach game that has been shot. You cannot assume the animal is dead, simply from it being motionless on the ground.

One of the more terrifying experiences a hunter can have is to approach a lifeless squirrel and suddenly realize the squirrel is not lifeless. Squirrels are not like the co-star on SpongeBob SquarePants. Well, I take that back. Sandy Cheeks (the aforementioned squirrel for those without kids) knows martial arts and could chase the soul out of anyone.

And yes, if you can picture in your mind’s eye an image of a hunter with a squirrel attached to his boot by fierce rabid teeth and looking like the Tasmanian Devil (another cartoon character) swirling about, well you have a good idea of how I started jumping around on one hunt. Squirrels can be mean.

Our first lesson in not approaching wildlife probably came from yet another cartoon character, Yogi Bear. The ranger was constantly trying to keep people away from Yogi and Yogi away from people’s food. If they would have turned that cartoon from G-rated fun to an R-rated bloody massacre, people may adhere to the rules a little better.

While in Yellowstone National Park a little over a month ago, rangers were constantly trying to beat observers to bear appearances. The reason? To make sure they didn’t become full-blown bear encounters. We were constantly reminded by signs and rangers to stay a certain distance away from wildlife. And yet, while observing a large slumbering black bear with another 50 or so people, the ranger had to issue warnings to another couple of people who snuck in behind our crowd to get close to the bear from the other side.

What could possibly happen, right? Well, we won’t get into encounters with sharks. That may be the one thing people do adhere to the rules properly.

But it was just June 8 when a lady was killed by a 12-foot alligator while walking her dogs in Florida. A neighbor noticed the dogs barking towards the water but could not find the lady. Later that evening officials discovered the body. She walked despite numerous warnings not to, because of the gators there.

Just two days prior in Yellowstone, a lady was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Like I said, there are numerous warnings throughout the park about staying at distance from wild animals. In this instance, a crowd got as close as 15 feet from the animal when it became agitated and charged into the group. It was the second time a bison had attacked a visitor this year. The first time was another lady who was trying to get a picture with the bison and grabbed one of the horns to turn its head towards the camera.

There have also been two instances of elk attacks in the park this season.

Earlier this week a man ignored warnings and climbed a fence where bison are located in the Land Between the Lakes area of Kentucky. He approached within 10 feet of one of the bison. Again, things didn’t go well and he received an expensive helicopter ride to the hospital in Nashville.

So, to make things simple, do not approach wildlife. They are fun to watch, but do so at a distance. The vast majority of wildlife are faster and stronger than the most gifted athletes.