Keep the following guidelines in mind whenever you're on the lookout for Montana wildlife:
LEAVE NO TRACE
Make sure you respect wildlife and their habitat by not leaving behind your empty pop cans and potato chip bags. If you see trash left behind by someone else, pick it up. Wherever you camp or picnic, leave the spot in better condition than you found it. Camp in designated areas only. Use pre-existing campfire rings. Do not start chopping at live trees and vegetation for your campfire. Instead, use only dead wood from fallen timber on the ground.
Stay on designated roads and trails to minimize the impact of vehicle and foot traffic. In delicate ecosystems of Montana, there really is a fragile balance. Traffic (whether by foot or vehicle) can create ruts and trails where they didn't exist before. These ruts can lead to erosion, loss of plant life, habitat and so on. Remember to respect the boundaries of public and private lands, and ask permission before venturing onto private land. It's easily done: consult a map before you begin your trip. Finally, respect the wildlife as well. Never feed anything to Montana wildlife. Such actions can cause habituation. Animals get used to human food and human contact, which in turn can lead to aggression.
TAKE SAFETY MEASURES
Certainly everyone knows that bears, mountain lions and other large animals can pose dangers. But keep in mind that any wildlife can be dangerous—even animals as seemingly harmless as deer can injure if provoked. Most animals react with alarm when approached by humans on foot or in any type of vehicle. Depending on the situation, an animal may remain, flee or attack. What's the best way to avoid injury? Keep your distance and enjoy with the help of binoculars.
Even if you find an animal that appears to be injured or a baby animal that appears abandoned, avoid the temptation to "help". Injured animals often feel especially vulnerable, and will be more likely than ever to attack. Baby animals are usually being watched by protective mothers (even when you can't see them), and touching the young could bring mom's wrath on you or even cause her to abandon her young. The most mild-mannered animals will go to extremes to protect their young. If you do spot an injured or abandoned animal, your best bet is to call the nearest Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks office to handle the situation.
If an animal suddenly stops feeding, raises its head sharply, appears nervous or suddenly changes its direction of travel, you've ventured too close to it. Calmly back away to give the animal space. If you disturb the wildlife, it's considered harassment. In State and National Parks, harassment can get you a hefty fine.
Please leave your pets at home. Dogs can chase and kill wildlife. Leaving your dog at home will greatly increase your chances of seeing wildlife.
LET ANIMALS BE THEMSELVES
Don't frantically wave, yell, or whistle at them. If you are quiet and don't disturb them, you might see or learn something interesting.
KEEP YOUR FOOD TO YOURSELF
That sandwich may taste great to you, but it can harm the digestive systems of wild animals and convince them to look for handouts from other people.
STAY AWAY FROM NESTS
You might inadvertently lead a predator to the nest. You may also scare parents away from their young, exposing them to danger.
OBSERVE AREA CLOSURES
On Montana's public lands, you may occasionally run into areas closed for a variety of reasons: bear danger, mating seasons of certain animals, etc. If it's closed, it's closed for a good reason.