But don’t let this Reading be a complete downer. This is supposed to be a happy post about how cool the bayside inlet of Holgate is when the Dolphin swim up just 10 feet from the Beach. The jet skiing stuff is totally harsh, agreed. Still, looking at the photo another way, you might notice two people who are excited and interested enough about LBI’s wildlife to stop and take some photos and videos. They just went about it in the very, very wrong way. This is actually a common occurrence around LBI and more often than not, a crime perpetrated by regular folks both unknowingly and in moments where curiosity overrides better judgement. I’ve done it on my SUP, our own Beach Patrol often does it on paddle boards, joyriders on jet skis and anglers in boats do it all the time, and interestingly, surfers almost never do this, probably because they are busy and have so much experience in the water that they know it is a better experience to let the Dolphin come to you. Or not. It’s a real phenomenon and one that is really interesting to think about.
This is not an apology or excuse for ignorant, well intentioned cruelty or law breaking, or an argument that we are really capable of self-policing our own behavior in regards to wildlife. That’ll be the theme of another Reading. This is just a Reading about getting close to wild Dolphin, why the inlets are great places for it, what harassment on the Sea looks like in reality, and how curious and unfortunate it is when folks interested in and excited about wildlife sometimes do more harm than those who are totally disinterested, or even those who hate Dolphin.
But still most interesting is how contrary the behavior is to their own self interest. The reality was that those Dolphin were putting on an amazing show when the Jet Skis came along. It would have been a pretty amazing front row seat for them had they used caution and patience and respected the Dolphin’s legal and common sense boundaries. Instead they wound up terrifying the animals, breaking the law, and got much lamer photos and experiences as a result. Epic fail. They not only destroyed for themselves, for the Dolphin, and for me, but also completely missed, a Gratuitous Dolphin Extravaganza.
I really, really wanted this Reading to be only about the opening picture because it took a very, very long time (2 years of trying!) to capture what the experience of having the Dolphin swim right along side of you while you stand on the Beach out back of Holgate is really like. The Jet Ski incident was just the reality of what happened at the end. Still, it is fascinating to consider how much of the wild animal cruelty you can witness at the beach is the result of the interested & the curious as opposed to the cruel or disinterested. A garden variety jerk flushes a Snow Owl once. Most wildlife photographers will flush it multiple times. I have never seen more trespassing & damage to the Holgate Refuge than when the big birding trips show up. And after hundreds of incidents, I have never seen someone harass a Marine Mammal out of cruelty or disinterest on LBI. Even the guy with the dog I found kicking the Seal a few years back thought he was helping it get back in the water.
Over enthusiasm is as bad for wildlife as total lack of it. The great Todd Pover once said wisely, “Love ’em, but don’t love ’em to death.” But what’s best, at least in this case, and in many, many cases, is that what is best for us and best for the animals is completely and totally compatible. Once we see that, it is a no brainer, and becomes an easy, fundamental ethical guideline that becomes very difficult to stray from. In many cases, if we just really, really consider our own interests, like getting an unforgettable experience or exceptional photo of a wild animal, we will wind up behaving like good neighbors and naturally doing what is best for the animal… or at least not doing what is mean and totally illegal!