Wildlife Watching in New Hampshire

Tools and Techniques for Wildlife Viewing

Bring Binoculars

While binoculars are one of the most helpful wildlife watching tools, selecting a good pair can be difficult. An all-purpose pair may be 7 or 8 magnification and 35 or 40 lens diameter (7x35 or 8x40), which gather a lot of light for dawn or dusk wildlife viewing. Although there may be more powerful binoculars available, they will be considerably heavier and one must consider gear weight if hiking into a viewing area. A trick to using binoculars is find the animal with your naked eye first. Then, bring the binoculars to your eyes without shifting your gaze and focus.


Wear Appropriate Clothing Layers

Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing weather and temperature. The season and time of day will determine how many layers to bring. Think ahead and bring an extra layer if you’re going out in the evening. Also consider clothing color as birds can see color well. Keep hunting seasons in mind and wear bright orange when appropriate.


Use Field Guides

Using field guides, wildlife apps, and other resources can be used to identify wildlife, learn about their habitats, and enrich your viewing experience. These resources can also be used without cellular service in more remote locations.


Go Out When Wildlife Is Active

Wildlife activity depends on seasons and time of day. New Hampshire wildlife viewing peaks between April and June as well as September and October. Migratory birds are most active in these months and animals are raising young in spring or preparing for winter during autumn. Time of day can also impact your experience as the first and last hours of daylight are when wildlife is more active.


Be Patient, Still, and Silent

Slow down, take a few careful steps, stop, listen, and look. This may improve your chances at seeing wildlife. Pay attention to sounds and smells while looking for movement or changes in shapes. Avoid making noise, including stepping on brittle sticks and walk into the wind if you can. Allow yourself time as you probably won’t see a lot of wildlife as soon as you arrive at the viewing site. Sit motionless and try to blend in with your surroundings and wildlife will be more likely to go about their daily routines.


Use a Blind

If you can conceal yourself, you’ll increase your chances of having a successful viewing experience. Simply standing behind a tree or bush instead of out in the open can help. Cars, boats, and canoes make excellent viewing blinds. Animals are often used to seeing these things and may not feel threatened or disturbed unless your try to get out.


Prepare For Your Outing

Review the area you plan to visit before you set out as some are remote and without any facilities. Check for warnings about road conditions and weather. If you are hiking into a site, know where you’re headed and bring a map, water, proper footwear, food, and appropriate clothing. Expect to encounter and protect yourself against insects during spring and summer. Remember to protect yourself from sunburn by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock.


Viewing Ethics And Responsibilities 


Observe Wildlife from a Safe Distance

The goal of successful wildlife watching is to see animals without interrupting their normal behavior. An animal sends clear signals if you come too close: it stops feeding and raises its head sharply, moves away, changes direction of travel, or appears nervous or aggressive. Any disturbance may result in an animal abandoning its young, injuring itself as it tried to escape, not feeding at a time of critical energy need, or displaying aggressive behavior toward the intruder.


Wildlife Enjoy Wild Foods

While it may seem exciting at the time to have an animal eat out of your hand, the health and happiness of humans and wildlife are at risk. Human food does not meet the nutritional requirements of many animals and it can lead to serious harm. Other wildlife can become accustomed to and dependent on handouts leaving them to face possible starvation when the food source disappears. Wildlife has also been known to lose the natural fear of humans and become aggressive with visitors who refuse to feed them. If human injury results, so, usually, does the death of the animal involved. It’s best to let wildlife find natural food sources in the environment.


Have Fun and Don't Chase

In some cases, pursuing animals for any reason forces them to use up valuable energy resources needed for survival. Make sure to leave pets at home; your viewing experience will be more successful as well as more comfortable for the wildlife.


Safety First: Leave Young Or Sick Animals

Wild animals rarely abandon their young. In most cases, the adults are nearby, waiting for visitors to leave before returning to their young. If an animal appears to be sick or injured, behaves oddly, or seems tame, it’s safest to leave it alone. A number of wildlife diseases (including rabies) can affect humans.


Be Kind To Private Landowners

Always ask permission before entering private property and leave no trace that you have been there. A little kindness goes a long way.


Share The Site With Other Recreationists

Be considerate when approaching wildlife that is already being viewed by others; a loud noise or quick movement may spoil the experience for everyone. Remember, you share the woods with many other recreationists, including hikers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, and hunters. Most public lands are open to hunting and fishing, so wear hunter orange during open seasons. Information on hunting season dates and regulations is available from the Public Affairs Division of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department as well as from license agents.