Having seen several threads recently concerning human/animal communication one in particular gave me concern since many of us would love nothing more
than to be able to literally "talk to the animals". One woman seems to have a real gift for it but it caused me concern that others might want to try
to mimic her. There are some dangerous behaviors I'd like to point out lest someone try this in a chance encounter with a dangerous animal and end up
the worse for it.
- A huge no-no in the animal kingdom. It is a sign of aggression. Look at an angle in brief glances but never stare straight in their
eyes for any length of time.
- When you smile what happens? You bare your teeth. What does it mean when an animal bares their teeth at you? Enough said.
I have always had pets and spent some time working in wildlife rehab. Watching and photographing animals is a favorite pastime of mine and I'd like to
pass along some of what I've learned from experience as well as from the excellent books available.
It's important to know that not only are all species unique in behavior and habits but individuals within a single species can vary widely in
temperament. Sex and time of year play important roles in behavior too. Like the Canada goose you fed by hand last fall can be your worst nightmare if
you get too close to their nest in the late spring. We treat people as individuals and should do the same with our wild brethren. Constant exposure to
humans and their activity is no guarantee of behavior. Humans usually mean danger to an animal. If they have not yet had a bad interaction with us we
are at a minimum an unknown quantity and therefore a potential danger.
It is a good idea to read up beforehand on any species you think you might encounter and learn what you can about their behaviors, habits, food
If you want to observe animals without disturbing them there a few general rules that apply:
Just as humans define a certain space around them so do animals. Again, this varies widely by species and by individual quirks.
Some will allow you to get within 20 feet with no reaction - others will bolt if they notice you a 1/2 mile away.
Mountain sheep, antelopes and many birds such as raptors and herons can only be observed at a distance. A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope
may be necessary to watch without disturbing them.
Minimize your "human-ness".
Humans have certain characteristics that we should be mindful of and attempt to minimize them. Don't stand fully
upright - stay in a crouched position or bend over if standing. Keep your arms and hands close to your body. This helps to minimize your size and
therefore your potential as a threat.
Walk quietly and slowly
This helps you to discover animals before they see you. Don't take long strides and never walk directly towards an
animal you wish to observe. To get closer use cover between you and the animal to conceal your movement. Always move at an angle to them and never
face them straight on - if you are sideways to them you look half as large as when facing them.
Pay attention to the wind.
Not only does it carry your scent but sound as well, especially if near water. Try to remain downwind from the
animal as much as possible.
Most mammals have a very acute sense of smell. They can smell you coming from far away. This would include: deer/antelope, horses, buffalo along with
bears, foxes, wolves, coyotes and raccoons. Most smaller mammals as well as aquatic mammals have much more limited senses of smell. This group would
include: beaver, muskrat, squirrel, rabbits, badgers and all weasel family including otters.
Be mindful of your emotional state.
Try to be as relaxed as possible, clear your head of all thoughts and imagine yourself as just another part
of the landscape. Not only does your emotional state manifest through physical characteristics but through your scent as well. It has been often said
that dogs can smell fear. I believe that to be true of most mammals. Our bodies emit pheromones that signal primal messages far and wide.
The relaxed state of being is most conducive to receiving messages not only through our physical senses but through what most call telepathy - which I
call "the recombinant sense". Not a true sense like vision but a combination of ALL of our senses, filtered through our brains like an echo which then
act in concert to convey additional information.
People will say "I had a hunch" or "I just had this feeling". I think this is actually our other senses making their presence known rather than true
or Unconditional love. This is what you should strive for in your emotional state. Our minds and bodies are constantly sending out
messages, positive messages being much less threatening than negative ones.
Monitor their reactions to you
Pause to observe any changes in attitude or movement in the animal. Try to gauge their reaction to you by it.
Ask yourself: are they nervous? is that a reaction to me? are they responding to something else I don't see? Only move closer to animals that appear
I should add that anyone who respects these creatures should do their utmost to not disturb them and cause them to stop whatever activity them might
be involved in. Most people know enough to not approach nesting birds but spooking any animal can result in separating them from their young.
I learned the hard way while watching a pair of Red foxes late one winter. I had seen their tracks and scats and eventually tracked them back to a den
they had recently dug in the ground. For several days I watched them come and go from a patch of brush until my curiosity got the best of me and I
walked right up to the den. I sat for days after that only to conclude they had abandoned it because of my intrusion. I'm glad they had not yet given
birth or I might have been responsible for killing an entire litter of kits. Forcing an animal to deviate from it's normal activity will affect it.
Observe, wonder, appreciate but from a safe distance - their safe distance
. It's better to err on the side of caution than to have a negative
impact on them simply due to our desire to be close.
With time and patience you can get fairly close to many of the creatures we share our world with without either being the worse for the encounter.
Sitting in one place where you have a good view especially near water is one of the best ways to watch animals go about their daily routine. Use of a
tree stand can put you well above the ground if there no natural features available to watch from.
Anyone serious about nature needs to learn the basics of this. It is simply learning to read the language of the signs left
behind - their footprints, scats (feces), dens, nests, scrapes, feeding signs, etc. You don't need access to any wilderness areas to practice it, in
fact you can do it everywhere you go and learn surprising things. Within a 1/2 acre lot of waste ground right in the middle of my city I found where a
small herd of deer would come to sleep at night, hawks would hunt and even the tracks of a rabbit desperately running to avoid the jaws of a hungry
Gray fox. To most everyone it looked like a lot full of tall weeds.
The world of nature - open for all to enjoy
I will post a list of books in a follow up.
edit on 17-12-2013 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)