(c) Jack Ballard
In modern social life, kids and adults are taught that maintaining eye contact with another person is the polite way to communicate. But if you’re trying to get close to a critter for a closer look or a better photograph, forget all you’ve learned about respectful human interactions in America. Follow the pattern of people in some other cultures, where avoiding eye contact is seen as a sign of respect.
For creatures in the natural world, looking at them directly is often interpreted with predatory intent. It’s the hungry coyote, not the grazing pronghorn, that stares right at a fat prairie dog. If you’re trying to get a bit closer to a squirrel in a tree or a bird in a bush, make your approach slowly, don’t walk directly toward the animal and don’t look it in the eye.