With very few exceptions, you shouldn’t approach wildlife. It’s wild, not a collection of critters that are just begging for domestication. If you see a creature hanging out in the woods, you shouldn’t just assume it’s your patronus.
Leave it be; if possible, make sure you keep considerable distance. If you don’t, things tend to perish – and by “things” I mean the wildlife, not you (although there are some gruesome exceptions to this.) The latest casualty of our inability to just step away is a moose that died a rather prolonged, utterly pointless death.
As reported by WCAX 3, a moose swam across Lake Champlain this weekend, all the way from New York state to the delightfully named South Hero in Vermont. It made it onto land, but plenty of onlookers then approached it, taking photographs.
Feeling threatened, it retreated back into the water. Apparently not thinking it had anywhere safe to rest, the moose eventually succumbed to exhaustion, and it drowned in the lake.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Officer Robert Currier told local reporters that there is no situation in which getting that close to a moose is appropriate.
“Best practice is to stay away from it. Keep your distance, don't crowd the moose,” he said. “If a moose feels threatened, it's going to respond by either leaving the area or it’s going to respond with aggression and, obviously, we don’t want anyone to be a victim of the latter.”
This was a plainly ridiculous death, but other recent cases illustrate why you shouldn't try to engage with a wild animal even if you think it might be in trouble.
In Wales a few weeks back, for example, a stranded dolphin was put back into the sea by concerned passersby. Apart from the fact that this exposed them to potentially dangerous pathogens, the dolphin was too poorly to recover by itself and ended up being found dead further down the beach hours later.
In Yellowstone National Park back in 2016, a pair of tourists stashed a baby bison in their car boot because they suspected its mother had abandoned it. When it was eventually retrieved by wildlife officials, they failed to find the herd it belonged to, with all candidates rejecting it. Ultimately, it had to be put down.
By all means, head into the wilderness and appreciate the remarkable products of millions and millions of years of evolutionary biology and natural selection. Just don’t think that interacting with it, even with good intentions, is going to end well if you have no expertise in the matter. Phone wildlife services instead.