Hikers can reduce impact on wildlife

Regarding “What is the harm of fun?” by Michale Glennon and Sarah Reed [“Viewpoint,” May/June], the claim that motor vehicles may have less impact on wildlife than hikers because animals hear them from farther away and thus avoid close contact is patently ridiculous.

In considering the effect of hikers on wildlife it is important to ask the question “Exactly what are animals afraid of?” Wild animals don’t have the time or surplus energy to flee from harmless creatures.

My experience in sixty years of hiking is that:

1. In wildlife sanctuaries where they are completely protected, animals lose their learned fear of humans in a few generations.

2. In the Adirondacks, where hunting is permitted but spread over a wide area, animals (including non-game) are wary and occasionally seen from a distance. Yes, animals do learn from other species what might be dangerous.

3. In Darien Lakes State Park, a five-hundred-acre wild park (the closest public hunting area to Buffalo), I have never seen any kind of animal in forty years, despite abundant tracks, scat, and feeding signs.

I am not opposed to well-regulated hunting. In fact, hunting probably keeps the Adirondack bears timid, to the advantage of bears and people both. But when we talk about the effect of human activity on wildlife we must be clear about what the real issues are.

Things that hikers can do to reduce impact are:

1. Avoid behavior that resembles predation. Act as if you aren’t particularly noticing animals (for instance, by avoiding rapid head movement toward animals and especially pointing). Show companions what you see by quietly describing its location.

2. Cultivate a quiet and calm demeanor. There is no television to talk over in the forest. Our church and library voices are more than sufficient in the quiet of the wilderness.

Michael Sticht, Lancaster and Eagle Bay

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