Paddling with Critters: Do’s and Don’ts

Among the finest issues about paddling – whether or not it’s standup, outrigger canoe, or surf ski – is the moment connection we make with the aquatic setting. Encounters with the creatures that inhabit the water world are a big a part of that connection. It doesn’t matter what you might be doing on the water, whether or not it’s a coaching session, a easy health exercise, or only a leisure paddle, chances are high you will notice animals that almost all people not often are available in contact with.  A few of these interactions can be mesmerizing, awe-inspiring, curious, and funky, and a few is likely to be downright scary. A little bit information, together with respect, will help you take advantage of out of these instances once you come head to head with wildlife on the water.  This submit affords some perception and suggestions for dealing with these moments, each within the ocean and in freshwater, together with some methods to assist maintain these environments wholesome for the following era of paddlers.

The Ocean


The primary time paddling within the ocean might be intimidating, particularly in case your expertise has been principally inland.  There’s heaps to consider – tide, present, waves, and swell, amongst different issues.  The “different issues” that most individuals take into consideration often are sharks.  Due to sensational books and flicks, the “Landlord” or “The Man within the Gray Flannel Swimsuit” will get a foul rap. It nonetheless holds true, although, that you’re extra more likely to get significantly harm in a automotive accident on the best way to the seashore than you might be by a shark. Chances are high, any time you’ve been within the ocean, you’ve been there with sharks.  You simply didn’t realize it. Why? As a result of they aren’t involved in us. Researchers inform us that shark bites are circumstances of mistaken id – often occurring when situations embody murky water or when people on surfboards or boogie boards appear to be seals or sea turtles.  You possibly can take some precautions to attenuate your threat, together with

  • Keep away from paddling after heavy rains when the water is brown and murky
  • Keep away from paddling early within the morning or round sundown – that’s breakfast and meal time.
  • Heed any posted seashore warnings.
  • Paddle with a gaggle or buddy.
  • Use warning when paddling between sand bars or close to steep ocean flooring drop-offs – as these are prime hangouts for sharks.
  • Keep away from paddling round fishing piers and spearfishers.
  • Depart your shiny jewellery at house and keep away from high-contrasting clothes. Sharks see that distinction particularly nicely.
  • Preserve your splashing to a minimal.

Widespread Myths about Sharks and People:

Human blood will not be a confirmed shark attractant. And women, neither is swimming throughout your time of the month.  Actually.  That stated, in case you have a bleeding, open wound, there are 100 different explanation why you won’t need to be within the water. An infection is the most important one among them.

The presence of dolphins doesn’t imply sharks aren’t round.

What to do in case you see a shark

  • Keep as calm as you may.
  • Keep in your board.
  • Paddle calmly again to shore in case you really feel threatened.
  • If attacked, be proactive. Hit the shark on the nostril along with your paddle.  Repeatedly, if essential.  Exit the water asap.

The nice oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, affectionately often known as “Her Deepness” says this of shark sitings: “Sharks are stunning animals, and in case you’re fortunate sufficient to see plenty of them, that implies that you’re in a wholesome ocean. You have to be afraid in case you are within the ocean and don’t see sharks!”

For extra suggestions and data, try the Worldwide Shark Assault File.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are probably the most superb creatures to see swimming freely within the ocean.  They’re a protected species, so in case you see one, observe from afar.  Don’t attempt to swim with it, don’t contact it. Don’t attempt to take a selfie with it. Identical goes for encountering one on land.  Preserve a good distance and use that zoom lens in your cellphone to get an awesome photograph. Federal regulation requires you keep 50 yards away.

Chances are high, in case you see a sea turtle paddling, it’ll keep out of your manner.  Do what you may to remain out of theirs, too.  I not too long ago discovered myself dropping in on two mating sea turtles who occurred to be heeding nature’s name proper within the surf line up.  I worn out to keep away from hitting them.  I don’t assume they even seen!

In locations like Hawaii, the safety of those animals has introduced the native inhabitants again, and they’re thriving. It isn’t unusual to see them basking on the seashores throughout any time of day. Typically, they do that to regurgitate bits of shell and different natural objects they’ve ingested however can not digest.  Don’t be alarmed in case you see a basking honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle!) with what appears to be like like viscous blood coming from its mouth.  That’s simply a part of the regurgitation course of.  For those who do see a turtle that seems to be injured or in misery, many states have animal stranding hotlines which you’ll be able to name and make a report.  If you’re paddling in an space identified for sea turtle nesting, concentrate on marked nests and don’t disturb them.

Cetaceans and different Marine Mammals

This Humpback whale and calf approached our canoes as we have been stopped. They surfaced and swam previous us. Kihei, Maui

Dolphins, whales and seals/sea lions are additionally protected species. And like the ocean turtles, they’re at all times superb to see.  Nothing is a joyful to see than a pod of dolphins, a mom humpback whale and her new child, or a breaching whale.

For those who paddle out for a whale watch, right here’s what it’s essential to keep in mind:

  • Stay at the least 100 yards away- concerning the size of a soccer subject.
  • Don’t chase after the whales.
  • Don’t swim with them.
  • If a whale approaches or surfaces close to you, cease paddling. Let the whales transfer off. Don’t watch a whale at floor for quite a lot of minutes, and don’t type a hoop round them with different paddlers.

Related guidelines apply with dolphins. Listed below are NOAA’s Tips:


When Viewing Marine Mammals By Watercraft

When viewing wildlife at sea, all boats, jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks, and different watercraft ought to keep applicable distances from marine mammals and sea turtles, whereas observing applicable velocity limits.

  • Stay at the least 100 yards from giant whales, and 50 yards from dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and sea turtles. Federal regulation requires vessels to stay 100 yards away from humpback whales in Hawaii and Alaska waters, 200 yards from killer whales in Washington State inland waters, and 500 yards away from North Atlantic proper whales all through U.S. waters.

  • Restrict time spent observing people and teams of animals to half-hour or much less.

  • Don’t chase, encircle, or leapfrog animals with any watercraft. Don’t entice animals between watercraft or the shore.

  • Keep away from approaching marine mammals when one other watercraft is close to. A number of vessels usually tend to disturb marine mammals.

  • Keep away from extreme velocity or sudden adjustments in velocity or path close to whales, dolphins, or porpoises.

  • When encountering marine mammals, decelerate, function at no-wake velocity. Put your engine in impartial when whales method to go.

  • Keep away from approaching whales, dolphins, and porpoises when calves are current.  By no means put your watercraft between a mom and calf.

  • Be cautious of breaching and flipper-slapping whales that may injure folks or watercraft.

  • Keep clear of sunshine inexperienced bubble patches from humpback whales. These are sub-surface bubbles earlier than whales rise to feed on the floor.

  • By no means pursue or comply with marine wildlife—any vessel motion ought to be from the really helpful distance and barely parallel to or from the rear of the animal. If it’s essential to transfer round marine wildlife, achieve this from behind. By no means method head-on.

  • Don’t deliberately direct your watercraft or speed up towards a marine mammal with the intent of making a stress wake permitting them to bow or wake-ride.

  • Slowly go away the world if marine mammals present indicators of disturbance.

Bear in mind, particular locales might have extra laws, so know earlier than you go.

For extra info, go to the NOAA web site.

Issues that Sting

Typically coming into contact with jellyfish and different stinging ocean animals is unavoidable. Know what sorts of stinging critters are more likely to be within the space you might be paddling and take the mandatory precautions.

Shuffle your ft to keep away from stepping on stingrays in shallow, sandy areas.

Keep off coral reefs to keep away from coral cuts, in addition to stings from sea urchins and hearth worms. Staying off the reef can also be important to protecting our coral reefs and the setting they develop in wholesome.


Recent, inland waters are additionally nice locations for cool critter contacts.


Non-Venomous Northern Water Snake

Regardless of widespread conceptions, snakes are not often a problem when paddling.  Even the much-maligned cottonmouth or water moccasin.  Snakes will exit of their solution to keep away from us people. Must you see one, simply go away it alone. Bear in mind, there are lots of species of water snakes within the US and solely one among them is venomous. If you’re paddling in an space outdoors the US identified for its snakes (I’m you, Australia!) chat with the locals. Chances are high the identical guidelines apply.  Watch the place you step getting out and in of the water and go away it alone in case you see one.  Must you encounter a sea snake, whereas being extremely venomous and poisonous, they’re extraordinarily docile and bites are uncommon.  Simply go away it alone!

Cottonmouth – one among North Carolina’s six venomous snakes – on the Roanoke River.  Taken with a zoom lens. It didn’t chase us.


American alligators might be discovered within the Southeast all the best way up the japanese seaboard to the northern border of coastal North Carolina.  They may also be discovered within the southern areas of  Arkansas, and a few components of Texas and Oklahoma.

Like nearly all the animals talked about on this submit, alligators will not be seeking to make a paddler a meal. Most incidents often are the results of the human doing one thing harrasing or simply downright silly.

Right here’s find out how to keep away from any unfavorable gator encounters:

  • Know your environment and bear in mind. You don’t need to shock an alligator and make it really feel threatened. Be particularly aware and on alert when paddling round bends and in areas the place vegetation is thick.
  • Avoid shorelines. That is the place alligators sunbathe.
  • Be particularly cautious in murky water.
  • Keep calm in case you see one.  Bear in mind, it doesn’t need to eat you. It needs to keep away from you. Preserve your distance. Paddle away from it.
  • Don’t be silly and attempt to feed an alligator.  It’s not price it, even for Instagram.
  • Staying in areas with excessive boat site visitors can add a layer of security. As will paddling with a buddy or in a gaggle.


Manatees are primarily related to Florida, though they’ve been discovered as far north as North Carolina.  That is one other species that’s underneath federal safety, by the identical legal guidelines that defend whales and dolphins.

Listed below are the rules for observing manatees from the Florida Wildlife Fee:

  • Get pleasure from watching manatees however keep in mind to maintain your distance and restrict your viewing time in order that the manatees don’t discover you or your vessel.
  • Use warning when paddling close to seagrass beds, sanctuaries or refuge space boundaries as manatees can be getting into or exiting these areas. Give manatees the area they should transfer freely of their habitat.
  • Keep away from approaching or surrounding any manatees that you just or others in your group stumble upon. Again away till you may observe the animals from a distance. Manatees that steadily encounter paddlers can lose their pure warning round all vessels, which can enhance their threat of damage after they method motorized vessels.
  • Manatees mustn’t are available in contact along with your vessel. Whereas manatees might provoke the contact, paddlers ought to be conscious that manatees are able to flipping a vessel. Its tail is highly effective and will simply upend you if the animal makes a sudden, forceful motion to get out of hurt’s manner. Again away from the animal till it loses curiosity in your vessel and resumes its regular conduct.
  • For those who lead a paddle-sport group or tour, mannequin and promote moral conduct to your shoppers. Contemplate offering optics for shopper use or encourage them to zoom in nearer with a digital camera or different gadget.
  • Put on polarized sun shades with the intention to see the place manatees are positioned underwater.
  • Communicate quietly and keep away from making loud noises if you end up close to wildlife areas. Your purpose is to view manatees with out disturbing them.
  • Providing meals or water to manatees is prohibited as a result of it alters their foraging conduct and is taken into account a type of harassment. Give manatees area to seek for meals and water on their very own.
  • Paddle your vessel to keep away from touring over resting manatees. Manatees should floor to breathe and can startle awake in case you are in the best way. Give them area to floor and breathe.
  • Calves (very younger manatees) and juvenile manatees are cute and curious however they aren’t pets. Keep away from the temptation to rub, scratch or in any other case contact any manatees that floor close to your vessel. Bear in mind to “look, however don’t contact” manatees. Watch out to not separate a calf from its mom.
  • Analysis tools hooked up to a manatee helps researchers find and monitor the manatee for additional examine or for well being causes. This tools doesn’t harm the manatee and shouldn’t be touched or eliminated.
  • Manatee mating herds are fascinating to look at as a number of bulls (males) pursue a cow (feminine) till she is able to mate. In your security, watch these mating herds from a distance because the animals are targeted on mating and don’t heed intruders of their midst.
  • Decrease your anchor slowly once you need to safe your vessel as there could also be resting manatees beneath your vessel that you could be not see.
  • It’s okay to take photos of manatees—please don’t carry, contact, maintain on to or pose manatees to your photos.


Paddling and chook watching can go hand in hand.  I’ve gotten my greatest views of bald eagles, osprey, herons and kingfishers whereas on my board or canoe.  Keep away from nests, don’t feed and don’t in any other case harrass the birds you would possibly encounter.  Simply as you wouldn’t do to any of the opposite animals we’ve talked about on this submit.

Respect the Water and Land

It ought to go with out saying that once we paddle, we’re guests.  We’re paddling within the house of all of the animals that swim and reside round our rivers, lakes, sounds and oceans.  And but, you don’t must go too far to see manner an excessive amount of proof that we as people don’t act like guests in another person’s house.

Begin by remembering that you’re impacting the habitat and setting of a whole lot of animals each time you paddle out. Do all the pieces you may to attenuate that influence.


Don’t litter. Decide up different folks’s trash.  For those who see a plastic bottle floating within the water, fetch it out.  You may have room for it in your board or in your boat. Consider the instance you might be setting by doing that.  See some discarded fishing line? Wind it up and take it again to shore the place it may be disposed of correctly.


For the love of all issues true and holy, cease utilizing sunscreen containing these substances:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it might probably rub in, it’s in all probability nano-sized)
  • Any type of microplastic, equivalent to “exfoliating beads”

Sure, meaning you will must REALLY learn the labels. Not all “reef secure” sunscreen actually is.  In Hawaii, it’s THE LAW. Not solely is it crucial for our reefs however different aquatic environments as nicely and for our personal pores and skin!!!

Need assistance with that? Take a look at Save Our Reef’s web site.


Decide up your fishing line.  Follow catch and launch strategies.  Observe all native, state and federal laws.

Follow Depart No Hint ideas

Reduce your influence to the areas the place you paddle by leaving it cleaner than once you discovered it. Don’t take something however images (and the trash you collected!) and go away solely footprints.


This will sound like a bunch of guidelines however the backside line is, we wish to have the ability to paddle within the ocean and in our waterways for so long as we are able to, and for our youngsters and their kids to have the identical experiences. Repecting our oceans and waterways and the animals that depend upon them protects our paddle locations and finally, our personal existance!




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