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Arkansans have taken the state's nickname - The Natural State - very much to heart. Ask anyone. To see and to understand, you have to explore her forests and rivers, her mountains and bayous. Diverse habitats and wildlife define Arkansas.
Whether you are wanting to view birds, wildlife or just enjoy the gorgeous wildflowers along the roadside, Arkansas has it all.
With a deer herd numbering over one million animals, a healthy black bear population, turkeys in all 75 counties, songbird and raptors of all types and bugling elk in the Ozarks, there is no better place than the natural state to photograph and view wildlife. Grab your camera and binoculars.
Wildlife watching is an uncertain business. You’re never sure what you’re going to see or even if you’ll see anything at all. But there are things you can do to increase your chances of seeing a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in their natural settings.
- Be prepared. Before you visit, review site descriptions and viewing information for services, etc. Call to confirm area access; many areas are open on a scheduled basis, or may have limited access in some seasons. Use maps; the U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or other public agencies might have just the information you are looking for. Carry water, even in winter. And remember, pay attention to the weather forecast and bring appropriate clothing.
- Pick your season. Some wildlife species are active or present only in certain seasons. For example, the best season for viewing waterfowl in Arkansas is in winter when millions of ducks and geese arrive from their nesting grounds to the north. Other birds are seen only during spring and fall migrations. Some wildlife species are here year-round but are much easier to see when the leaves are off the trees. Check the information in the guide or call site managers to get detailed information regarding seasonal opportunities.
- Pick the time of day. The best way to increase your chances of seeing most wildlife is to view at dawn or dusk. Some species such as turtles, lizards and many birds, however, may be seen even during the midday heat of summer.
- Use field guides. Even the most experienced wildlife watchers depend on field guides for positive identification of animals and plants. Many guidebooks also help by identifying preferred habitats and habits for different species.
- Use binoculars and/or a spotting scope. Binoculars come in many sizes; 7 x 35, 8 x 40 and 10 x 50 are common sizes. The first number refers to the magnification – how many times larger an object will appear than it does to the naked eye. The second number refers to the diameter of the objective lenses – the binoculars’ two big lenses. The larger the lenses, the more light will enter. Wildlife viewing often goes on in low-light situations, so the bigger the lens you can bear to lug around, the more you will be able to see. How to use binoculars.
- Move slowly and quietly. Try to blend into the surroundings, either by using a blind – your car works very well – or by wearing neutral-colored clothing and keeping still. Walk slowly, stopping often to look and listen. Use trees and other vegetation for concealment.
- Keep your distance. This applies to any wildlife you may encounter. Binoculars and scopes allow you to get a good view without getting too close. Approach wildlife slowly, quietly and indirectly. Always leave animals an avenue for retreat. If your presence causes animals to change their behavior, you are too close.
- Respect nesting sites and dens. Well-meaning but intrusive visitors may cause parents to flee, leaving young animals vulnerable to the elements or predators. Stay on designated trails.
- Leave young animals alone. Young animals that appear to be alone usually have parents waiting nearby.
- Leave pets at home. They may chase, startle or even kill wildlife.
- Don't feed animals. Animals survive best on their natural foods. Animals that get hooked on handouts may eventually lose their fear of cars, campers or even poachers.
- Respect the rights of landowners. Many viewing sites are adjacent to private land. Pull as far off roadways as you can, and remain in your vehicle. Do not venture onto private property unless you have obtained permission from the landowner. Don't damage fences and leave gates as you find them.
- Respect the rights of other viewers. Keep quiet. If other people are viewing, allow them to enjoy a high-quality experience, too. Leave places in better condition than you found them. If you find litter, pick it up and dispose of properly.