The Wildlife Watcher's Code of Ethics (2009)


Colorado Division of Wildlife


The Wildlife Watcher's Code of Ethics

Date Approved: 

July 6, 2009

Other Versions: 

Disclaimer: Please note the codes in our collection might not necessarily be the most recent versions. Please contact the individual organizations or their websites to verify if a more recent or updated code of ethics is available. CSEP does not hold copyright on any of the codes of ethics in our collection. Any permission to use the codes must be sought from the individual organizations directly.

The Wildlife Watcher's Code of Ethics

We, as wildlife watchers, will put the needs and safety of wildlife first, conserve wildlife and habitats, and respect the rights of others. We will seek wildlife watching experiences that reward us with the gift of seeing animals behaving naturally in their own environments. Recognizing the importance of learning specific codes of ethics for observing birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects in the wild, we will adhere to these guiding principles:

1. Observe animals from a safe distance, for us and for them.

  • Use binoculars, spotting scopes and viewing blinds for a close view.
  • Move slowly and quietly.
  • Avoid nests and dens, leaving baby birds and other young animals where we find them.
  • Learn to recognize and respect wildlife alarm signals.
  • Understand that when an animal changes behavior as a result of our presence, we are too close.

2. Reserve feeding of wildlife for backyard birds.

  • Put the safety and health of wildlife first by resisting the impulse to offer a handout. 

3. Film and photograph wildlife responsibly.

  •  Use a telephoto lens from a viewing blind or a vehicle.
  • Never chase, herd, flush, or make deliberate noise that stresses wildlife.
  • Leave plants, trees and other natural features as we found them.
  • Encourage photo and film editors to adopt ethical standards that include lens size of published photos, depict wildlife as part of a natural environment, and identify photos of captive wildlife.

4. Always be considerate.

  •  Ask permission to watch or photograph wildlife on private land.
  • Observe all rules and regulations.
  • Wait your turn to view or photograph animals when sharing a viewing area.
  • Leave pets at home or in the car. Tread lightly, staying on trails and roads.

5. Return a gift to nature in all our actions.

  • Consult your local wildlife agency for specific guidelines on ethical wildlife watching, filming, and photography.
  • Participate in wildlife and habitat conservation.
  • Help others to become responsible wildlife watchers.

Endorsed by the National Partners in Watchable Wildlife End of this issue. (The information contained in this issue of Colorado's Wildlife Company was accurate at the time of original publication. Situations and circumstances described, staff positions, contact information, and dates of some events may have changed in the interim. Present knowledge and understanding of biological and behavioral facts and information may also be different, now, than presented here.)