Playing With Animals

Buffalo Angler AwarenessWhile you are enjoying your adventures in the outdoors, you are bound to come across some animals. The kids may want to play with them, but you know they should stay a safe distance away. So, what’s a safe distance?

Some of the National Parks recommend that you stay 25 feet away from all animals. That seems a little extreme for birds and rodents, but maybe not far enough for bison or bears or skunks. I came across a recommendation to use a rule of thumb. Hold your thumb out at arm’s length and if you can hide the animal with your thumb, you are far enough away. That put me about 15 feet away from my cat – probably safe enough, except my cat is about the same size as a skunk.  Every rule has exceptions.

If you are between a bear and her cub, you might be able to hide mom behind your thumb until she heads for her cub. At some point your thumb won’t be big enough and you will be in trouble. Like most things in life, judgement and situational awareness are required. Use your own judgement and not someone else’s. Just because that nice family ahead of you on the trail is standing right next to a bison is no reason for you to get that close.

So, start with the rule of thumb and back off if the situation makes that a wise choice. The angler in the above photo, shot by Mike Cline on the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park, is unable to hide the bison with his thumb and is assessing his situation. What should he do?

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