2018-10-06 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

Let’s face it – activities by humans are inflicting more and more stress on some of our cherished wildlife species. With a few behavior modifications, we could lessen our impact.

I hate to single out all-terrain vehicles. But with some politicians in Harrisburg and many of their local counterparts starting to advocate for allowing ATVs to access previously undisturbed swaths of forestland in Potter and Cameron counties, this topic needs to be part of the public dialogue.

During a recent stay in the Pennsylvania Wilds, I observed that ATVs with loud mufflers flew by in strings of 10 or more. When they neared the wildlife we were trying to photograph, the animals took off like a shot.

I knew that the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is under heavy political pressure these days to stray from what once a “resource first” philosophy. Consequently, DCNR has designated some back roads and trails for ATV use.

What surprised me was that some townships and boroughs are allowing ATV riders to use their roads.

And now some of the influential politicians have slipped a clause into the state’s fiscal code, of all places, to mandate that DCNR put in a network of ATV trails in the local region.

The presence of so many of these loud vehicles shattered the peace and quiet we were seeking, and we heard many folks complain about them.

I do see the other side of the argument for expanded riding opportunities of public land. We found almost as many ATV users in the area as nonusers. We watched as people loaded up as many as six of them on a single trailer. I’m sure it boosts the economy of the region.

What’s harder to measure is the impact on wildlife and the environment.

On a similar topic, many folks who camp do not properly store their food away, out of reach of bears. At least one black bear had to be put down because some campers wouldn’t take in their food at night. You can’t blame a black bear for partaking of some easy pickings.

And then there are the tourists who flock to the area to see the elk. Many forget that these are wild animals who need their space.

We watched patrons from a local restaurant lining up one evening so they could have their photo taken with a young bull elk. Most stood within arm’s length. We learned later that the bull was euthanized because it became too aggressive.

About a year ago we found a Canada goose on her nest, but she was constantly being disturbed by onlookers, to the point that she abandoned it.

Although she moved into a considerably better hiding place, there was a trail that looped around behind her and her nest. The next time we drove by, we saw young kids throwing stones at her. Unfortunately, the goose gave up her location permanently.

Photographers aren’t always “goody two shoes” either. I will confess that I have gotten too close to a wild animal on occasion. It’s tough to fight the urge to get just a little bit closer.

The “do unto others” philosophy may oversimplify the problem, but it is something we should all consider. If you ruin someone else’s experience, you have broken a golden rule or two.

(Dave Wolf can be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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