Proper Viewing Etiquette



Remember the sight of this mare as you visit regions of the country with wild horses and other wild life! With the tourist season fast approaching I thought it would be interesting to share “etiquette” when visiting national parks, BLM lands, or wild life sanctuaries.

First and foremost, you are visiting their home. Where they live and survive in wild conditions 24 hours a day. Although they appear docile and approachable, just like the horse in your barn or backyard, they are not. They are wild creatures. Don’t let that demure stance and disinterested posture lure you into approaching them.

Wild horses will react lighting fast and will do just like Juniper is doing to Olympic, Firefly’s colt, in the blink of an eye. If you think your horse reacts quickly, they have nothing on how these wild horses move. Each time I witness their speed and agility I am stunned!

The following points I acquired from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park web page, the Cloud Foundation web page, and the Salt River Wild Horses web page. Again, you will be visiting a National Park so their Wildlife Viewing guide takes precedence over any other viewing suggestions.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park has abundant watchable wildlife. What you see depends on the season, your patience and luck. Binoculars are helpful, but not essential.

1) Remember: all wildlife in the park are wild and potentially dangerous.
2) Keep a safe distance from all wildlife. Some animals like bison, feral horses, and prairie dogs may seem tame, but they are wild animals and can be dangerous. People who get too close to them may be gored by antlers and horns, trampled by hooves, or bitten by sharp teeth.
3) One should not get closer than 100 yards to bison and feral horses.
4) One should not get closer than 25 yards to other wildlife.
5) Use binoculars, spotting scopes, or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing them.
6) Keep pets in your vehicle. Pets may scare wildlife, and wild animals can hurt pets.
7) Use of wildlife calls and spotlights is illegal. They stress animals and alter their natural behavior.
8) Drive slowly. Watch for animals crossing the road. Deer, elk, pronghorn, and feral horses are seldom alone. If you see one animal, look for others that may follow.


1) How do you interact with wild horses? You don’t. Keep your distance and be respectful of their space. You’re in their home after all.
2) Speak in a low voice if you’re talking to other people. Try to be as benign as possible.
3) What do you do if they’re paying a lot of attention to you? You are too close and need to move farther away. In general, if you are impacting an animal’s behavior, you are too close.


1) Please Do NOT … chase, disturb, feed, harass, harm, pressure, touch… the wild horses – not for any reason.


1) Don’t do what a teenage boy did a week ago and try to pet a wild stallion. He was five feet away. Thankfully, the boy finally stepped back away from the stallion after several strong suggestions from observers, but not without showing disrespect toward the humans involved.

2)  Please do not adopt the attitude of this visitor to the park. Twenty feet is too close and disrespectful, regardless of experience, or if you believe somehow you are exempt. It is exactly this attitude that puts the wild life at risk.  Remember the park service recommends 100 yards! This comment was taken from a Facebook post:

“I never worry about it. I’m a pretty good judge of how close I need to be with my camera for photos (I was probably ~20 feet away from Half-Moon 2 weeks ago) and if a horse is uncomfortable and tells me so by a vocalization or starting to move, I’ll stop and wait for them to settle down again before resuming photos/video. So for me personally, I never worry about trouble with the rangers, but that’s just me.”

3) There are times when I have been too close because I felt a need to ‘capture’ that perfect image and afterwards immediately knew I had been disrespectful of their space, their daily routines, and their lives, which takes away from the joy of the image. (I use a 400mm lens and there are times I wish for a 600mm and I try to resist that urge to get closer. After being with them daily it is much easier to let go of that urge and enjoy what I am lucky enough to witness from a a respectful distance. Sometimes the memories are more powerful than the image itself.)


The most important point is respect. Enjoy what they give you. Enjoy their natural instincts, the incredible beauty they live in, and try to put yourself in their place. They are amazing! If you watch quietly from a distance you will see behaviors you won’t normally see in your own horses or your neighbor’s horse. You can sit and listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze in your face, view the incredible landscape, and tell your friends what behaviors you were privileged to witness.

I hope you get to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and view first hand the wild horses! You won’t be disappointed!