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Ethical Viewing Tips
Ethical Viewing Tips
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​​Make The Most of Your Wildlife Viewing

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Watchable Wildlife program offers the following tips and advice for rewarding, safe, and responsible wildlife viewing. (Download the tip sheet to take with you on your wildlife viewing trips.)

  • Observe animals from a safe distance—safe for you and safe for the animals. You can get a close-up view by using binoculars, a spotting scope, or a camera with a telephoto lens.

    • Learn how to properly focus your binoculars.

    • If the animals you are observing have their heads up, ears pointed toward you, or appear 'jumpy' or nervous when you move, you are probably too close! Sit or stand very quietly, without making eye contact, or move slowly away to a safer distance. 

    • Be especially sensitive to and cautious around adults with young. 

  • Move slowly and casually, not directly at wildlife. Allow animals to keep you in view and do not surprise them. Avoid eye contact; watch from the corner of your eye.

  • Never chase or harass wildlife. Harassment of wildlife is unlawful, and can be extremely harmful.

  • Leave your pets at home. At best, their presence hinders wildlife watching. Worse, they can chase, injure, or kill wildlife, or be injured or killed.

  • Use the animals’ behavior as a guide. Limit the time you spend watching if animals appear to be stressed.

  • Respect others who are viewing the same animals.

  • Do not feed wild mammals. Reserve feeding for "backyard" birds. See Feeding Wildlife Puts Everyone at Risk and Living with Wildlife  pages for more information.

  • Respect private property. Ask for permission to access private lands before your viewing trip.

  • Animals at rest need to remain at rest. Don't do anything that might make them move.

  • Avoid animals that behave unexpectedly or aggressively. They may be ill, injured, or have young nearby.

Animals have a sense of what is, for them, a safe distance between themselves and other animals that might pose a threat (including humans!). If you intrude into what the animal(s) consider a safe distance, their behavior will change and they can become stressed, unnecessarily use energy, or face loss of time to rest or feed. Encroaching on their space can also trigger aggressive behavior. Never try to approach wildlife when they are clearly trying to move away and maintain safe separation.

Responsible Winter Wildlife Viewing​

Wildlife viewing ethics are particularly important during the winter. In winter, animals are under stress from cold and reduced food supplies; being chased may cause them to lose critical fat—which may threaten their survival. See the Winter Wildlife Viewing Tips.


When Viewing at a Hatchery

Roaring Judy Hatchery rainbow raceway. The State of Colorado has multiple hatcheries, most of which welcome visitors. Some hatcheries offer self-guided tours, while others may have tour guides available during certain times of the year. Call ahead to find out what is offered at the hatchery you will be visiting. To enhance your experience, educational materials are available at all hatcheries.

Tours for groups and schools must be arranged in advance. Call as far in advance of your visit as possible to make these arrangements. This will help ensure that a sufficient supply of educational materials is on hand and that your group has a coordinated, enjoyable experience.

Hatcheries are busy working environments. To make your visit as enjoyable and rewarding as possible, please observe these guidelines:

  • Don't place your hands in the water or try to catch fish with your hands. Doing so can contaminate raceways, and make the fish sick. Some hatcheries have nearby fishing; call ahead to find out what opportunities there are.

  • Don't move fish to another raceway. Fish are separated by raceways for good reasons. Moving them can result in their injury or death.

  • Don't wade or play in the hatchery's water source. This can cause contamination of the water or foul it with the additional silt and debris that might be kicked up.

  • Do not feed fish anything other than approved feed available from dispensers at the hatcheries. "Human" food can foul the water or sicken fish (with sicknesses that could be passed to other fish).

  • Talk to your children about why these guidelines are important.

  • Enjoy your hatchery tour! ​​