Wildlife Awareness Program Aims To Alter Attitudes

Aug 15, 2014

The Wild Aware Utah campaign, now available to Utahns, includes general safety tips to help educate the public about what to do when encountering wildlife while camping or recreating.

Mark Natt and his wife Stephanie Jochum-Natt are among a group of volunteers working together to prepare online and public speaking information that can be used to prepare for and prevent unwelcome encounters with bats, bear, deer and other animals.  They said the project is designed to be used by families, scout groups, 4-H clubs and the general public.

“[There are] little things that you can do to make a difference. When you are hiking, let the animals know you are there before you get there,” Mark Natt said.  “Give them the right of way, always give them an exit, don’t crowd the moose, don’t drag your three-year-old child closure for a photo opportunity, enjoy them safely from a distance—it is going to make you feel better about the encounter and obviously they feel better about the encounter.”

Trained volunteers are available to help educate students in the public school system and have already begun making presentations at Summit and Wasatch County schools.  Power Point is used to explain how to store food while camping, avoid migrating wildlife on roadways, and what to do if there is an unexpected encounter.  Brochures are used to train the public to stay calm, don’t run, and if attacked, fight back.

“There is also one for snakes, poisonous snakes opposed to non-poisonous snakes,” he said.   “We do one on bats.  If there is need, we develop a specific educational program to address that, so we do have one on coyotes and we have one on bobcats.”

Tips and prevention information used for the Wild Aware Utah training campaign were gathered by volunteers working with scientists, including those with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah’s Hogle Zoo and Utah State University Cooperative Extension.