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Hands to Yourself
Keep Wildlife Safe and Healthy

Touching wildlife can be fatal for the animal and can have legal consequences. Remember, wildlife are wild! They are more than capable of defending themselves with their teeth, claws, sheer size, or toxins.

Look, Don’t Touch

Would you like it if someone followed you around your house all day? What if a stranger kept poking you on the subway? It should come as no surprise that marine wildlife don’t enjoy these types of annoyances, either. Attempting to touch marine animals, like otters, seals, dolphins, sea turtles, or manta rays could seriously injure them, cause them to flee, or evoke aggressive behavior, using up the precious energy they need to perform basic life activities.

a sea otter floats on its back

A sea otter demonstrates what it looks like to keep your hands to yourself.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

It’s Illegal

You don’t want your social media posts of wildlife to make headlines for the wrong reasons! Attempting to touch wildlife doesn't just disrupt the animals’ normal feeding, breeding, and sheltering behaviors, they are illegal and punishable by law. Many of them are protected under the Endangered Species Act and are also sacred to their community’s cultural heritage. It’s illegal to touch, feed, or harass them, and there will be consequences.

Scuba diver swimming behind a turtle

When a curious sea turtle approached the photographer of this photo, she kept an 8-foot distance and remained relatively still while she took this great shot


Photo: Olivia Williamson

Responsible Reef Practices

Snorkeling over a colorful coral reef is an amazing experience, so do your part to keep it that way for both people and wildlife!

Take only pictures and leave only bubbles while diving or snorkeling! Touching corals can remove their outer protective layer, spread infectious diseases, and expose them to foreign bacteria and oils on your fingers, which negatively impacts their health and can kill them.

Watch your flippers! Fragile, hard-bodied corals can break and die at the slightest touch, and stirred-up sediment can smother them. Coral reefs are home to some of the most venomous creatures on earth, including many that are known to produce toxins that can irritate, kill, or paralyze humans. Touching them could give you anything from a rash to a trip to the hospital. Help to protect yourself and preserve this fragile ecosystem for future generations by keeping your hands to yourself.

Photoshopped image of seal laying on top of a person

Just, DON’T!
No photograph is worth putting your safety at risk.


Original image courtesy of Cal Poly SLO

Links to Learn More

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Take the Pledge


Respect. Protect. Enjoy.
#WildSanctuaries