"Don't incur any amount of undue stress on the animal"

Very nice piece. Thanks for sharing it, and sharing it further on our channels :-)


Handling or grabbing certainly stresses them out; how much is variable depending on how you handle catching and restraining, and on the species/individual in question.

But my biggest question is: Why? Why do I need to restrain that animal? Is it worth interrupting it’s day? Do I gain anything real from it? Sometimes the answer is yes; 99% of hte time the answer is no.

I’ll also note, that restraining or interrupting an animal robs you of the chance to see its behavior. I’ve gotten to see courtship, predation, mating, etc…things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to observe if I’d interrupted the participants


I would argue 99% is no, for most of beetles you have to photo underside, you can’t get it without interacting with an insect. Without that you won’t id it, you won’t know the destribution of the species, prpobably rare, new or understudied one. It worth interrupting it’ standing on one place doing nothng, especially if you think a scientist would kill it with no doubts.

1 Like

Do people still use bird calls? I just wonder how using bird calls fit into this? I would see how such may be a distraction to natural behavior, but is it considered impactful to birds and related species? (E.g., a bird call may attract a potential predator who detours it’s path to investigate)?


It’s a complicated and at times controversial issue in the birder community. My understanding is the main issues around stress from calls come when irresponsible (that’s my judgment) birders play calls during nesting season or in sensitive populations and cause a bird to defend its territory, or, if you’re annoying enough, leave the territory. I personally try to never play calls because of my own priorities for engaging with wildlife. I mostly operate on a case by case basis with all organisms with some rather strict rules underpinning all of my interactions. With bird calls, minimal use or conservative calling, including “pishing” (other countries have their own onomatopoeia?), can be akin to handling a snake for an educational program once in a while because the net benefit is part of calculated and thoughtful risk assessment. Calling in a successful well-established great horned owl once a season for a school group or a study or a one-time experience is somewhat different to me depending on the specific context than following around a kirtland’s warbler with recordings when they can barely survive as a species.

Part of the reason I don’t do much field-tripping with my naturalist group is because I can’t abide the choices of others (like getting out of a car in a reserve posted with “stay in your car at all times” signs posted everywhere to take good photos). Photographers who aren’t naturalists but want the photo at the expense of everything and everybody else are a personal pet peeve especially since the day I went to see a sandhill crane up the road and respectfully watched from my car with other birders across a road while a photographer essentially chased the bird off by getting too close despite warnings from others. Generally, from a larger perspective, I consider it undue stress on the environment and thus all organisms when people decide to drive 300 miles to see a single rarity for no other reason than it will be ticked off a list and you can brag about it. Besides the gas, how many inverts ya think ya killed?

By existing and walking about we’re constantly killing or maiming micro-organisms and if I let myself think about it I wouldn’t do anything but stand still. Various religious and cultural groups have struggled with the question of humans in the environment for ages and I likewise think it’s a very valuable thing to struggle with and do so constantly myself. I approach everything with a do-the-least-amount-of-harm intention and sometimes fail miserably. Sometimes I do things once before I realize what I could have done differently. Hillariously, as a person with Tourette’s, I sometimes find myself mimicking or finishing a phrase of a pe-wee or carolina wren or barred owl without realizing I’m doing it and then apologizing out loud to it.


Well, shoot, I liked whistling back at birds (not bird calls, just random whistling).
I didn’t know I might be stressing them out more than the real birds around them.

On the plus side, at least I know now. Thank you for the informative post. I will modify my behavior.

1 Like

If you don’t sound like the bird you’re whistling at you aren’t necessarily a threat. It’s important to consider the context, environment, species etc… My interactions where I live in the woods may need to be different than the interactions or behavior of folks birding in central park in NYC, or not depending. Many times the recordings of actual birds of the species is the issue not just noise generally or any interaction. Again…too many kinds of birds to generalize behavior or appropriate behavior for humans but it’s best to just approach with caution and research and learn! American crows will probably be okay but we may not have other species around if we don’t consider the cumulative impacts we have both personally, and collectively. Learning more about the behavior of birds, especially during nesting season, will greatly improve your ability to read their cues and adjust in real time.

This covers behaviors specific to nesting but a quick search between americanbirdconservancy, cornell lab, all about birds, should yield more results to help folks learn what to recognize and what best practices are among ornithologists: https://www.audubon.org/news/birdist-rule-28-know-when-birds-think-youre-too-close-their-nests


Does the “Golden Rule” help you to understand limiting disturbances to animals? Would you be impacted by someone accosting you in your important business? A brief discussion about weather? Politics? Snatched into a quiet nook for some handling? These animals are going about their business as needed to survive. Explain how you define “negligible”. Most critters flee if they can. That doesn’t sound like a response to a negligible minor annoyance to me.

Watch, from afar if possible (binoculars help). How does the animal react to your presence? Or Handling? If you can make it change it’s behavior, you’re probably having an impact. Ants generally seem to forget I am near quickly. Dragonflies seems to stay on alert longer and move away. Some birds spend their time actively telling me I need to leave their woods, wrens.

But every animal has to deal with chance encounters. I’ll take a quick photo when I encounter something. I won’t chase it too far. If I have a purpose, I may go beyond a photo, maybe up to taking a specimen. But for my own enjoyment, I keep the encounter brief.

Full disclaimer: I also fish for recreation. So if some species fails to grasp the intricacies of my existence and decides to drag me around by my face for fun… I guess I had it coming.


I never handle anyone. How would you like to be relaxing in the pond on a nice summer day and be picked up by some idiot?


I don’t think adding language like “idiot” is helpful here. As mentioned above there are many reasons why someone might handle an animal and it’s very case specific. Being ignorant or willfully disregarding its safety isn’t a prerequisite.


I think it’s a continuation of tallastro’s “sleazy pickup” analogy, for want of a better term… I am rather fond of a good analogy myself, but there is a danger of anthropomorphizing too far.

1 Like

I agree with a lot of the responses here, this is a really touchy subject.

Firstly, I’ve seen naturalists who have killed organisms while holding/observing them, because of their lack of knowledge on how to handle or observe them properly. They learned from their mistakes though.

I have also seen people, for example, find an injured bird or mammal and try to care for it. This almost never works - wildlife rehab would be better. Unpopular opinion perhaps, but I would leave that bird or mammal alone. When an animal dies, it provides the ecosystem a boost that is crucial to the survival of some chains. If we ‘rescued’ all such cases, it would certainly lead to other species who rely on this, going downhill.

Same here. I used to be a fanatic for catching the lizards and letting them go, but I realized how much stress it causes them. Now I just photograph them and smile at them, and that only.

In similar respects, I see no reason why people pin butterflies and moths. It is purely for personal enjoyment and does not benefit the poor creature at all. Of course, specimens must be taken for scientific reasons, in cases, and this is appropriate. But personal collections are something I don’t really agree with.

I am studying Jumping Spiders, and this occasionally means letting them crawl on my hands. But I would never consider picking them up or touching their abdomen. Both these crimes seem completely innocent, but picking them up could damage their legs or abdomen’s attachment, and touching their abdomens can make the jumping spider ‘rubbed’ - when the hairs that make up their interesting patterns are ripped out by your touching them.

We need to treat the things we see with respect. There is much more fun in observing from afar, rather than infringing on a critter’s stomping grounds. And it’s honest fun, too!


Personal collections, if done properly, are a great boost for science, big part of museum collections are from personal colletions gifted to them. Without personal collecting we wouldn’t have most if any great enthomologists of the past and present, that means we wouldn’t know anything about insects.


My personal collection is here.

In some cases this has proved useful, yes. But most of these modern collections are purely for personal enjoyment. And they go to great lengths to get new specimens, including buying on eBay - from other collectors which are doing it for money.


Most of scientists are not on iNat yet, plus for many stuff you need the specimen itself to use it.
It depends on situation, but people always were trading insects, though it only happens with right data coming with an insect, I doubt eBay is a good place to get it.


If only that was the case with those GoPro YouTubers. How many times have I been watching one of those videos, and they chase after the underwater critter while filming it? The wide availability of equipment is a double-edged sword – it helps more people become aware of nature, but it also creates more opportunities for people to do what they shouldn’t.


This change in ethics has occurred in my lifetime. I grew up with books that encouraged this kind of collecting as a means of understanding insects better.


Hi everyone - I appreciate all the answers and discussions in this thread. The relationship between humans and nature, with the implications/philosophies that result, are very important to me, and I believe they’re discussions worth having. It pleases me to see this one has gone on for so long with a variety of opinions being shared. Do keep in mind though that I mean no disrespect when I ask these questions. Of course I have my own biases and I may lean further towards one perspective, but that’s an inevitable part of being human.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.