Essential Wildlife Safety Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors

The parks, ponds, and lakes throughout Southeast Michigan provide ideal locations for various water activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, and paddling. 

Have a safe and respectful time on the water by keeping safety measures and regulations in mind. Here are essential safety guidelines to review with your friends, family, and loved ones before a day on the water.

Swimming in a Pool, Lake, or Other Water

Swimming is a fun family activity. It’s excellent exercise and a perfect way to cool off on a hot day. Keep yourself and family members safe during swimming activities with the following tips:

Safety Tips  

  • Always supervise children in the water. Keep children under age 5 within arm’s reach.
  • Only rely on approved life jackets, not swimming and flotation devices.
  • If you hear or see thunder and lightning, exit the water immediately. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before reentering.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol while swimming and supervising children.
  • Be aware of what drowning looks like and know what to do in a water emergency.
  • Follow all public pool rules.·      
  • Be aware of underwater hazards and obstacles such as rocks, trash, and vegetation in lakes and other natural water locations.

Boating Safety

Whether renting a boat or using your own, following boating rules and safety tips is imperative to keeping you and other boaters safe. Read the Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities Handbook and review the pre-departure checklist before heading out on the water. 

Also, boat owners must have a Michigan Certificate of Number (registration) and validation decals to operate vessels legally on public waters. There are exceptions for privately owned, non-motorized canoes or kayaks, and vessels registered in another state using Michigan waters for 60 days or less.

  • Always supervise children while on a boat. Keep children under age 5 within arm’s reach.
  • Children under 6 must wear a life jacket at all times when out on the water. All vessels must have a life jacket available for each person. 
  • Please review the safe boating guide for regulations on age minimums for operating boating vehicles. Note that rental businesses may have stricter requirements.
  • Avoid boating alone. Always bring a buddy.
  • Understand navigation and right of way rules. 
  • If you hear or see thunder and lightning, return to land immediately. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before reentering.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol while boating.
  • Be aware of what drowning looks like and know what to do in a water emergency.
  • Experts recommend that at least one person in your party have CPR training.
  • Bring a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Complete a float plan and leave it with a friend or family member. 

Personal Craft Safety

Here are some safety tips for being out on the water in a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or other non-motored craft.

  • Watch the weather forecast.
  • Plan a trip that matches the abilities of the others in your group.
  • Children under age 6 must wear a life jacket, and a life jacket needs to be available for all participants. It’s safest to wear a life jacket while out on the water. 
  • Practice re-entry in case you fall into the water.

Fishing Safety

Even when onshore, some guidelines will help keep everyone safe while fishing. Here are some fishing safety tips.


  • Only fish in permitted areas.
  • Wear appropriate footwear, especially when wading in water.
  • It’s a good idea to bring insect repellent.
  • Look behind you before casting, and don’t walk too close to other fishermen and women. 
  • Leave plenty of space between you and the next person. 
  • Consider using barbless hooks and kid-sized rods when teaching children how to fish. 
  • Bring a first aid kit. 
  • Remove hooks before carrying and storing rods. 

With a bit of preparation and planning, everyone in your group can enjoy water activities safely! Don’t forget the sunblock—and of course, have a fun time! 


This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at


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