We prefer watching animals from a distance, to try and cause them the least disruption. Every so often I've seen an animal in a distant part of a large area that doesn't appear to feel right. For instance, it may be limping a little bit, or missing an area of fur, which could indicate injury. Some animals that fight with each other, especially during mating season, can cause great harm, which is often obvious. Other times the damage is less obvious. Many times it's just natural changes that are part of being a wild animal.

Of course if we saw something drastic, like bleeding, crying, having trouble standing or running, or being picked on by other animals, I'd immediately report it.

I'm more confused if I feel that something doesn't seem right but am not sure. I'm particularly sensitive to animals, and can worry more than necessary. I've left places wishing I'd spoken up, but have just assumed that the rangers will see what I saw as they tend to their inhabitants.

If I don't have real evidence that an animal's in trouble, should I just leave it alone and assume the park rangers will handle it? Is it more helpful to at least report it, even if I might be over-reacting?

For this question, I'll focus on animals that permanently reside in an area which is fully-staffed with people who closely monitor them. There are many of those places world-wide. If that's too broad, I could use an example such as America's National Park System, where a standardized strict animal care system is in place.

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    Preferably always.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 15:42

3 Answers 3


In a National Park, unless the animal was harmed by a human, it seems like the park service isn't going to do anything.

“The rule of thumb is that if human activity causes an animal to become injured or orphaned, we may intervene. If not—if it’s something that happened naturally—then we don’t,” says ecologist Doug Smith, who oversees Yellowstone’s wolf and avian management.

To Rescue or Not, That is the Question With Distressed Animals

Death and violence and injury are a part of the wild outdoors, its how the cycle of life goes. If the Rangers were to prevent the wolves from eating elk then the wolves might go hungry.

In the same article above, there is the story of the tourist who brought a buffalo calf inside because they thought it would freeze and then the rangers had to put the calf down when it wouldn't return to its herd.

The outdoors are not a zoo and if people want the national parks to be a wild place, then people need to temper their expectations to what actually happens in the wild, not some fantasy world where the animals live in peace with one another


There are two very good and accurate answers existing here, by Kerri & Charlie Brumbaugh not disregarding their points at all.

If you wonder if you should contact someone, do it!

Calling with information gives the authority the option to make the decision. You should never physically interact with the animal. But a phone call has no potential for negative impacts to you or the animal.


Depending on the species, park rangers and other wildlife officials may be very interested to know that it has been spotted. For example: the monk seal in Hawaii. If found on shore, it is so endangered that a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) official will come out and set up a perimeter so people won't disturb it until it goes back out to sea.

I would suggest checking on what the endangered species are in the area where you will be hiking / camping, and then have the local number to call in case you spot one. But never approach it. If you have a GPS device, note down the location and let a ranger know you saw it.

Particularly important to my field is if there is a beached whale. Report it immediately to a local NOAA office (or any NOAA number you can find online) and ask them whether or not you should approach it to aid in keeping it wet or who is in your area to assess whether or not an attempt should be made to reintroduce it to the ocean. If the animal is too far gone, the decision to euthanize it as humanely as possible (shots similar to horse tranquilizers) under direct control of an exotics veterinarian may be best. Even if the whale has already died, the opportunity to do a necropsy could be important to local NOAA offices, so a report would be appreciated.

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    In a general sense it would seem appropriate to report any animal distress to the authorities. However, would they intervene is a different issue. In the western ghats India for example (from where I hail), unless the animal is harmed by human influence, the rangers will leave it to itself. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 8:57
  • Thanks Kerri! I'm a passionate conservationist, and believe it's my responsibility to fight for all manners of life, especially because humans pose the greatest threat! I've read about those monk seals, and am concerned! I assumed the NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, so I edited the question to reflect that. If I wasn't right, I apologize and hope you'll fix it! Keep up the good fight! Thanks! Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 22:57
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    HI Sue, your link is accurate. Thanks for fixing my jargon. ;)
    – Kerri
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 5:49

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