May 23, 2012

Wildlife Viewing Basics

Where, when and how to see more animals when you’re in the woods

Seeing wildlife is one of the most exciting aspects of being in the forest in Wisconsin. For most outdoors enthusiasts, seeing white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear and other large animals is a matter of chance. But, you can greatly increase your opportunities to see Wisconsin wildlife if you better understand the habits and habitat of woodland animals. Here are some basic principles that will help you see more animals when you’re in the woods.

  • Sunrises and Sunsets – Animals such as deer, turkey and bear are most active at dawn and dusk. These are transition periods for animals, times when they are on the move between their sleeping areas and feeding areas. And, it is during these low-light periods that animals feed most heavily.
  • Edges Are Best – Places where forests meet lakes, meadows, wetlands, farm fields or rivers are where animals spend most of their time. It is at these edges that essential resources are most concentrated, including water, green leafy plants, grasses and farm crops. Wary woodland creatures also hang close to the treeline so they can escape to the safety of the forest at any sign of danger.
  • Be Quiet –The sound of a car door slamming shut announces to the forest creatures that it’s time to run and hide. Cracking twigs underfoot as you march through the woods frightens animals as well. Go slowly through the forest. Sticking to paths is a good way to make quiet progress through the woods. Some of Wisconsin’s best wildlife viewing can be found along well-marked nature trails.
  • Be Still – Forest animals have ultra-sensitive hearing, keen eyesight and a sense of smell that is astonishing. Being still allows you to be quiet and blend into the background. It also keeps your scent from being spread about and carried by the wind. When you’re standing still, you’re just another object in the woods. Many wildlife enthusiasts report instances where curious animals have walked right up to them as they stood still.
  • Dress Drably – Wear clothing that matches your surroundings. In the forest, that means drab colors like browns and olive greens. Camouflage is ideal.
  • Ask Around – Forest animals are creatures of habit. Herds of deer will leave the forest and enter the same farm field night after night. Wild turkey and ruffed grouse will roost in the same trees nightly. And, black bear are known to return regularly to places where they can find food. Ask the locals about the best places to see wildlife. You’ll discover where the big bucks are feeding, wolves are howling, bald eagles are nesting and beavers are building their dams. You’ll find that most people you meet on your forest adventures love wildlife as much as you do—and they’re more than happy to share their insight and knowledge.

Find great destinations for viewing woodland wildlife, including Black River Falls, Boulder Junction, Middleton, Onalaska, Oneida County, Oshkosh, Rhinelander, Rusk County, Stevens Point Area, Vilas County, West Bend, and the Wisconsin Great River Road.

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