You go, squirrel: Give wildlife a safe space to work for the camera

Rock squirrels are frequently found searching for food in areas full of visitors. Although they seem docile, they can give a nasty bite (Erin Ford/WGCN)

Rock squirrels are frequently found searching for food in areas full of visitors. Although they seem docile, they can give a nasty bite (Erin Ford/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Rangers at Grand Canyon have responded to several human-animal interactions in the last few weeks, one of which resulted in serious, but not life-threatening injuries to a visitor. The National Park Service reminds visitors to enjoy Grand Canyon safely and to remember a visit to Grand Canyon is not like going to the zoo-there are no fences to separate you from real wild animals.  

When capturing unique wildlife moments, be a smart photographer and keep safety in the picture. Follow these picture-perfect tips for an enjoyable experience watching wildlife.

  • Take your time! Wildlife are more active during dawn or dusk which also has some of the best lighting for photos.
  • Follow the rule of thumb: if you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb you’re at a safe distance. This distance is usually 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from large wildlife.
  • Use binoculars or a camera with zoom to view animals from a safe distance. To steady your shot rest your elbows on your ribcage or knees.  
  • Stay quiet and still on the safe side of railings- noise and quick movements can threaten wildlife.
  • Use field guides to help you identify what you’re seeing.
  • Wild animals are more interesting to watch as they follow their instincts and experience the world with little human interaction.
  • If you are close enough to take a selfie with an animal, you are too close.

At Grand Canyon National Park, animals like elk sometimes lose their natural fear of people and can become habituated by the presence of food and water. During spring and summer, female elk become protective of their calves. Similarly, during the fall breeding season, male elk can exhibit aggressive behaviors. Even small animals such as squirrels and ravens can have the bold habit of approaching people, looking for food, opening bags, and on occasion, biting hands. Animals that have been habituated to humans can be at risk of disease, poor health, injuries or euthanasia.

Reporting an inappropriate human-animal interaction at Grand Canyon is as easy as dialing 9-1-1. Visitors and residents who see an animal acting aggressively toward people, or people approaching, feeding, or harassing wildlife may report the incident to Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center by locally calling 9-1-1 or (928) 638-7805. Please take note of where the incident occurred and if there are any injuries to people or wildlife.

Visitors and residents are responsible for their own safety and the safety of the animals, too.

More information on how to see and photograph wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park, can be found at https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/wildlifephotography.htm. Use the #FindYourDistance or #SafeSelfie on social media to share your photos of safe wildlife interactions.

Information provided by Grand Canyon National Park.

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