I’ve seen this sentiment many times with fellow naturalists - the gist of it, from what I gather, is to not even give the animal the tiniest reason to feel stress resulting from your presence. “Do not approach the animal, do not make any noise, do not try to catch it, hold it, or shine a light at it.” I can totally understand this line of thought, why folks want to practice it, although the ultimate rationale behind it is a bit hazy to me. Simple courtesy? Legitimate biological reason? Perhaps some sense of internalized guilt from being human in an animal’s world?
But I digress. The reason I started this topic is because I’ve been mulling it over and I have some thoughts. Now, full disclaimer, I don’t claim to know the truth behind it all, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about ecology and nature compared to you all. But I see these “no undue stress” naturalists and scientists, and then compare them to other naturalists and scientists who have no qualms with catching/handling herps, trapping mammals, netting birds, or even encouraging anglers to hook fish.
You can imagine the discrepancy I might perceive. There’s no reason to assume either one of these two groups is not passionate or respectful towards animals, yet they have very different approaches when it comes to human/animal interaction. Both are learned and educated and dedicated to the welfare of nature, yet to one group it almost seems like a cardinal sin (no pun intended) to incur any extra stress on the animal than it endures in nature without the presence of man.
The way I see it, I can respect the whole “don’t disturb nature” thing, but the amount of “stress incurred” seems negligible to me. The majority of animals living today survived the K/T event, sometimes even worse mass extinctions, so getting startled or handled briefly by a human shouldn’t be much more of a minor annoyance to them. I get there’s a knowledge factor involved, like the proper way to hold a bird or a frog. But even so, are these mild inconveniences, barring pollution or habitat destruction, really severe enough to affect animals to the point of dire consequences, like a gene pool shift or a localized extinction? And on a smaller scale, are they really that significant?
I’d love to hear all your thoughts. This community always provides great answers and discussion for topics like this.