Matt Johnson

Wildlife Watching Tips for Your Next Glamping Adventure

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Dec 12, 2023

Going off on a glamping adventure brings the promise of unforgettable experiences with nature’s wonders. Of course, we all love the wining and dining and the luxurious amenities, but you’re still in nature and watching the wildlife is one of life’s pleasures.

Having done our share of wildlife watching, we wanted to impart a few tips we’ve came across over the years. They’ve worked for us, figured they’d work for you.

Understand the basics of wildlife etiquette.

When you’re immersing yourself in the great outdoors, taking in the wildlife is a thrilling experience. 

However, it’s crucial to remember that we are visitors in their habitat. They still have to live there after we leave.

Respecting wildlife is not just about preserving nature’s balance; it’s also about ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. So following a few aspects of etiquette goes a long way.

Keeping a safe distance.

One of the golden rules of wildlife watching is maintaining a respectful distance. This is not only for your safety but also for the well-being of the animals. 

Wildlife can be unpredictable, and getting too close can be perceived as a threat, possibly triggering a defensive reaction.

Here’s what you need to remember—

  • Know the recommended distance. For most wildlife, a safe distance is about 100 yards for large animals and 25 yards for smaller ones. This can vary, so always check local guidelines. For reference, 100 yds is around 8 school busses.
  • Use binoculars or a zoom lens. These tools allow you to observe animals closely without encroaching on their space.
  • Be mindful of their behavior. If an animal changes its behavior because of your presence, you’re too close. Back away slowly.

Not feeding animals.

Feeding wildlife might seem like a harmless act of kindness and maybe totally harmless. But, whether you know it or not, it can have detrimental effects—

  • Dependency. Animals can become dependent on human-provided food, losing their natural foraging skills.
  • Health issues. Human food is often unhealthy for wild animals and can lead to nutritional imbalances. Think about your dog eating chocolate, it could make them sick.
  • Habituation. Feeding wildlife can habituate them to human presence, potentially leading to aggressive behavior.

What should you do instead?

That might sound like it takes all of the fun out of wildlife watching, but not all hope is lost. Here are a few ideas to still get out there and enjoy the scenery.

  • Observe from a distance. Enjoy watching wildlife find and consume their natural foods.
  • Secure your food. When camping, ensure your food is stored securely to avoid attracting animals. Typically a latching cooler will suffice.

Be a pro at identifying wildlife — Use a guide.

Identifying the wildlife you come across not only adds depth to your experience but also connects you with the environment on a more intimate level. 

Observing a Moose in a Pasture

Thankfully, with the right tools, deciphering the identity of these creatures can be both easy and exciting.

A great starting point is traditional field guides. Books like “The National Audubon Society Field Guides” or “The Peterson Field Guide Series” offer comprehensive information on various species, including birds, mammals, insects, and more. 

These guides provide detailed descriptions, behavior patterns, and high-quality illustrations or photographs, making it easier to compare and contrast what you see with the documented species. 

On top of that, if you’re glamping in a place like Yellowstone with minimal cell signal, books might be the only way to go about it.

For those inclined towards technology and have the cell service, mobile apps have revolutionized wildlife identification. 

Apps like iNaturalist or Seek by iNaturalist offer a user-friendly interface where you can upload a photo of an animal, and the app will suggest potential matches. 

These apps not only assist in identification but also contribute to citizen science by recording and sharing your observations with a global community of nature enthusiasts and researchers. 

Another popular app, Merlin Bird ID, specifically helps in identifying birds by answering a few simple questions or uploading a photo. It’s a fantastic tool for both novice birdwatchers and seasoned ornithologists.

Any of these will help you enjoy your wildlife watching adventures and are fairly inexpensive or even free.

Know the best times for wildlife spotting.

The magic of wildlife spotting often unfolds in the tranquil moments of dawn and dusk. 

These times, known as the ‘golden hours’ to wildlife enthusiasts, are when many animals are most active. 

As the sun rises, nocturnal animals are returning to their resting places, while diurnal species are beginning their day, making dawn a perfect time for diverse sightings. 

The morning light also provides great conditions for photography, capturing wildlife in their most natural state.

Bucks in Rut in the Morning Hours

Dusk, on the other hand, offers a similar crossover of activity. 

Animals that avoid the midday heat start to emerge, and nocturnal species begin their nightly routines. 

Seasonally, these times vary; in spring and summer, early mornings and late evenings are often bustling with bird songs and movements, while in fall and winter, you might catch glimpses of wildlife foraging before the long nights. However, in general, you’ll most likely see more activity in the spring and summer months.

Master tracking and signs of animal activity.

The secret of the wilderness often lies in the subtle signs left behind by its inhabitants.

Tracking is not just about following footprints; it’s about interpreting a narrative of survival, behavior, and habits. 

Observing the size, shape, and pattern of tracks can tell you what animal passed by, its direction of travel, and even its speed. 

AnimalFootprint DescriptionSize (Length × Width)Habitat
DeerHeart-shaped with a pointed toe; two main hooves with sometimes visible smaller rear hooves2-3.5 inches × 1.5-2.5 inchesForests, meadows, prairies
BearLarge, rounded with five toes and visible claw marks; resembles a human footprint3.5-6 inches × 3.5-6 inchesForests, mountains, swamps
FoxSmall, oval-shaped with four toes; claw marks usually visible1.5-2.5 inches × 1.5-2 inchesForests, grasslands, deserts
RaccoonFront footprints are smaller than the rear; four toes with visible claw marks2-3 inches × 2-3 inchesUrban areas, forests, wetlands
RabbitSmall, round rear prints with longer front prints; four toes visible on each1-2 inches × 1-2 inchesFields, meadows, wooded areas
SquirrelSmall, four-toed prints with sharp claw marks; hind footprints often overlap front prints1-1.5 inches × 1-1.5 inchesWoodlands, urban areas
CoyoteSimilar to dog tracks but more elongated with less prominent claw marks2-2.5 inches × 1.8-2.3 inchesDeserts, plains, forests
BobcatSimilar to domestic cat but larger; four toes with no visible claw marks1.5-2.5 inches × 1.5-2 inchesForests, desert edges

Alongside tracks, other indicators such as bite marks on vegetation, scat, or nesting sites offer valuable clues about the presence and activities of wildlife in the area.

Some of the more telling surface conditions are mud, sand and snow. Tracks, as you’re probably aware, stick out like a sore thumb. But as you take a closer look, you’ll generally be able to determine what made that track.

These indicators might not stand out to you right away, but with practice and patience, you’ll develop a keen eye for these signs.

Don’t be seen — Camouflage and concealment.

Camouflage and concealment is key to observing wildlife in their natural habitat without disturbance. After all, if they see you they’re going to dash off.

The goal is to blend seamlessly into your surroundings, minimizing your visual, auditory, and even olfactory presence. 

Camouflage clothing is a start, but true concealment goes beyond just what you wear. 

It involves understanding the environment you are in and adapting your position, movements, and even your scent to become a natural part of the landscape.

To enhance your camouflage and concealment, consider these items—

  • Camouflage clothing. Choose patterns that match the environment, whether it’s forest, desert, or snow. At the very least, don’t wear bright and contrasting colors.
  • Scent blockers. Wildlife have keen senses of smell, so using scent blockers can be crucial. Most hunting or sporting good stores carry this.
  • Natural cover. Utilize bushes, trees, or grass to physically conceal your presence.
  • Slow and deliberate movements. Fast movements catch the eye, so move slowly and deliberately to avoid detection.

These are great examples of how to conceal yourself, but it really boils down to the environment. If you’re in an environment that is regularly traveled by humans, then camo isn’t so much of a necessity. Think about Yellowstone; the animals are used to people are don’t feel threatened (as much).

Ready to take in the wildlife on your next glamping trip?

As you head out on your next glamping adventure, armed with these wildlife watching tips, you’re set for a truly enriching experience. 

Remember, respecting wildlife etiquette, understanding the best times for spotting, and using the right tools for identification are key to a rewarding journey. 

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced nature enthusiast, these insights will enhance your ability to observe and appreciate the natural world around you. 

While you’re out there, don’t forget to take some amazing pictures!


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *