Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

This is especially true with wildlife. Last week’s sightings of dolphins in Island waters caused quite a stir. Photos were taken and shared, stories of up close and personal encounters were related, and many went out to get a look at these storied creatures.

Some of what I saw and heard disturbed me. From an appropriate distance, I observed a pod of dolphins out in Edgartown Harbor and then watched as kayakers and boaters went in for a closer and closer look. Too close a look. Same concern of the video taken by a local with the dolphins bowriding along with a jet ski. Too close.

Sadly, on Monday, I received a text from Joanne Lambert with a photo of a dead dolphin and an inquiry about who to call. And I heard about the stranding of a few dolphins in the days before that were re-floated. Perhaps the same animal, since often strandings indicate an injured, weakened, or exhausted animal.

While we may never know if the animals were indeed the same, we do know that people got too close to those dolphins. Too often, getting too close to wildlife in general can lead to injuries, illness and sometimes death.

For dolphins and seals, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) recommends a distance of 50 to 100 yards between you and them. Whales need 100 yards also, unless it is a right whale, which requires 500 yards.

For their protection, you should never pursue or chase these animals. Don’t get between them and their calves or trap them between a watercraft and the shore. Limit the time watching marine mammals also, as your presence can cause them undue stress.

Sea turtles require slow speeds and distance to avoid boat strikes. Having responded to many injured and dead turtles caused by propeller strikes, I can assure you that the importance of this cannot be overstated.

On land, wildlife-watching social distancing rules also apply. The National Park Service advises visitors to develop a long-distance relationship with wildlife, suggesting a 25-yard minimum for birds and other wildlife, except for predators such as bears and wolves that require at least 100 yards for their safety -- and yours. For reference, that would be two and eight full-sized bus lengths, respectively.

A great rule of thumb is to use your thumb to assure safe observation. Hold your arm out with a thumb up and sight the animal. If you can’t see the animal behind your thumb, you are at an appropriate distance.

Even more obvious is the behavior of the animal. If it sees you and reacts, you are likely too close. If the animal walks toward you, move back and away, letting wildlife be wild and not become pets or get too comfortable with people.

Binoculars and zoom lenses will allow for the close-up view desired. And no wildlife selfies: if you can take one, you are way too close.

It can’t be stressed too much that wildlife can be stressed too much. Know where you stand in your care and concern for wildlife. Never be within striking distance, because it is from afar where close encounters of the best (and safest) kind are to be had.

Suzan Bellincampi is islands director for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown and the Nantucket Wildlife Sanctuaries. She is also the author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.