Robert Crootof photo
Most visitors understand that feeding wildlife is against the law, but many people do not realize that disturbing park wildlife is also a violation of federal regulations and can result in fines and arrest.
The laws protecting park wildlife are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations. It states that “Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces bear or elk is prohibited." In addition, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
As a rule of thumb, if you approach an animal so closely that it changes its behavior, you have approached too closely. Instead use binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras with telephoto lenses to enjoy wildlife. Watch for any modification in an animal's behavior that indicates that you have approached too closely. Move away from the animal until you reach a distance at which the animal feels comfortable once again and resumes whatever activity it was engaged in before you approached.
Never feed wildlife or bait animals for closer observation or photography. Feeding park wildlife usually guarantees its demise.
Because many animals are most active at night, it can be advantageous to look for wildlife during morning and evening. It's also a good idea to carry binoculars. Some people like to sit quietly beside a trail to see what wildlife will come out of hiding. And don't forget to scan the trees—many animals spend their days among the branches.
Please read the important safety information at What Do I Do If I See A Bear?
Did You Know?
The barn at the Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee Visitor Center is over 50 feet wide and 60 feet long. A modern 2,500 square foot home would fit in the upstairs loft of the barn and over 16,000 hand-split wooden shingles are required to roof it. More...