DEC Guidelines to Wildlife Viewing... Putting Their Survival First

Short-eared owls, a New York State endangered species, nest and roost on the ground. The owls emerge from the tall grasses where they hide and rest around dusk each day to hunt for mice and voles. The sight of a dozen or more "Shorties" flying low over a field is a spectacle you'll never forget - but for them it's all about survival. Disturbing nesting and roosting birds is harmful - and illegal.

People walking near their roosting sites causes them to fly up from their hiding places, wasting energy they need to stay warm and hunt. It can also cause them to abandon their roost site.  

While DEC encourages people to enjoy watching wildlife in the Washington County Grasslands WMA and other public lands, they ask that you do so in a way that protects wildlife, especially endangered and threatened species.  

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Avoid flushing or otherwise purposely disturbing wildlife 

  • NEVER purposely chase wildlife!

  • Keep a respectful distance from nests and young

  • Stay on existing roads, trails, or pathways

  • Know and observe the laws, rules, and regulations governing the site

  • Stay in your vehicle (when viewing from the road), it serves as a blind and often allows for closer and longer observations without disturbing wildlife.

  • Be considerate of others around you (and neighboring landowners).

REMEMBER: Purposely disturbing, flushing, or chasing an endangered or threatened species is harassment and is ILLEGAL.
 If you witness such activity please document it and report it to the DEC Dispatch (1-877-457-5680)

PHOTO: Short-eared owl on the hunt - photo courtesy Dr. Gordon Ellmers