Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wildlife Viewing Etiquettes...

Wildlife Viewing Etiquittes:
1.    Do not approach or feed wildlife! I am always amazed at how often people try to feed wild animals. There are no “tame” animals in national parks and just because they don’t always run away from you when you approach them it doesn’t mean they are tame. A mule deer doe that has a fawn nearby won’t stray too far from that area. If you are in an area like Waterton where deer are habituated to people and you have a tasty treat for her she may even let you feed her. Then again, if you get close to a near-by fawn that may be hiding in tall grass you may be attacked. It is just better to admire the wildlife from a respectful distance.  Attempting to approach these deer inevitably results in people getting attacked and seriously injured by the angry doe. The effect of this poor human behaviour is the government has hired a lady to chase the deer out of town with a golf cart and several herding dogs. Insult to injury this creates more stress for the deer and makes them even grumpier! How would you like it if you were trying to settle down to have a baby when some crazy person on a golf cart with several dogs chased you around town? The bottom line? Keep your distance from all wildlife and the government won’t have to hire crazy “deer ladies” and everyone can enjoy the wildlife peacefully. On a bright note I brought along my 800mm lens and did manage to get some cute images of the mule deer fawns. While taking these images, I was either 100 feet away or photographing them from the safety from inside my vehicle.

2.    Road Side Bears- When you see a bear on the side of the road and would like to take a picture then realize that your point and shoot doesn’t have a very good zoom, do not get out of your car. Bears can run 30 miles an hour for several miles. You can’t. If you accidentally come between a momma bear and her cubs or even too close to her or her cubs while trying to take their pictures, you may be her next snack! Stay in your car when you are closer than 100 yards away. This weekend we were phtographing a mother and two yearling cubs when a guy dropped his wife off so he could reposition the car. Very stupid! Even if the bear isn’t showing signs of agression, we all know mothers are entitiled to change their minds and moods very quickly!
Bears cubs are cute, but please use some common
sense and photograph them from a distance. This picture
was taken with a super telephoto lens from at least the
length of a football field.

3.    Don’t block traffic! If you are on a narrow mountain road and you have a good wildlife sighting and want to stay with the wildlife and take more pictures of them, either find a pull out on the side of the road or drive ahead, turn around at the nearest pull out wait for them to come to you. If you hold up traffic, then you can almost bet that the wardens are going to be there to arm their sirens and scare the wildlife away so the traffic will start moving again. The wildlife then goes up into the mountains and we all lose our privlege of nice roadside wildlife sightings.

4.    Take only pictures, leave only footprints: Bread left out goes moldy, the birds eat it and get sick, tasty chewing gum spit out the window is tasty for animals as well. This can make a small animal sick or may die from ingetsting the gum. No one wants to see garbage or cans and bottles in nature. Have some respect for the wildlife and for other people and give everyone a chance to enjoy nature and keep it garbage free.

5.    Rutt Season- This event occurs in the fall when ungulates are competing to breed. Testosterone levels are high and fuses are short. If you are stupid enough to get out of your car to get a picture of elk fighting and the nearest cow elk is behind you, the winner of that competition will likely see you as his next obstacle standing between him and his prize and will likely go after you with the same agression that he had when he went after the male elk. Elk have even been known to attack cars in the fall (I think they sometimes see their reflection in the paint and attack). Big horn sheep chase after one another and can easily run over you by accident. Even if they don’t do it on purpose, getting run over by a 400 pound big horn sheep in mating season would be similar to getting hit by a vehicle. The difference is you won’t have the right of way and the sheep won’t care that you weren’t paying attention to where you were going. Common human attitudes of entitlement won't help you if a deer, elk, moose or bear injure or kill you.

5. Problem Bears
I'm not sure there are problem bears as much as there are problem people. In national parks people antagonize bears, honk at them, follow them, they surround them and they tease them with delightful food smells. Then when the bear wants to help himself to some of that food he is "a problem". When people get too close to a mom and cubs and the mom charges at someone, she is the problem. Sadly the worst part is these "problem bears" often end up getting re-located and sometimes put down because of how they react to people coming into their home.

6. Animals in national parks are not pets!
I realize this sounds funny to a lot of people, but many people believe these animals are pets. In Jasper National Park a few years ago a man tried to lift his bride on to the back of an elk so he could take a picture. She was later air lifted by helicopter to the U of A hospital after the elk almost gored her to death. In South Africa a family wanted their picture taken in front of a pride of lions. I believe the person with the camera lived, but the rest of the family were immediately killed and eaten. In Waterton National park where I was a couple weeks ago tourists asked the park rangers when the sheep were groomed because they looked "nasty". Yes the sheep look nasty when they are blowing out their winter coats and no, they aren't groomed or bathed. There is no big horn sheep groomer that grooms the sheep, then puts a pretty little bow on their bangs so they will look good for the tourists. On my most recent trip to Waterton I saw several tourists feeding the deer leaves and or grass. One tourist asked which ones are the pets and which ones are the wild ones. Apparently he wanted to know which ones he could pet. Yes, people really are that uneducated when it comes to wildlife. If you are from a city of several million, have never seen a wild animal before then come to a national park that has bear, sheep, goats and deer in abundance I can understand how you may not understand wildlife etiquettes. At the end of the day, ignorance is no excuse. People who don't respect wildlife are injured and killed by animals on a daily basis around the world and yet millions of people who follow some simple rules about wildlife are never ever harmed, so please respect them and they will respect you.

Harvey Wildlife Photography main nature photography website

Waterton Day Four...

I got up early to check out the fox den again and blanked again. I got there at about 6:15 a.m. and by then the sun was already pretty high over the mountain, so I may have just gotten there too late. I will have to remember to get there at 5a.m. next year. Hopefully the foxes will have babies at that den again next year.

We didn’t see much today, On our way home we saw another deer. This one had twins. Wouldn’t you know it we stop looking for fawns and they appear. We stopped to photograph them for a couple hours before leaving for home. The twins are always much more entertaining to watch as they are fortunate enough to have a playmate.

Waterton National Park Day Three...

Sunday morning I got up early to go to the fox den, but got blanked again. In the morning we drove up the hill and saw one cinamon bear filpping over rocks looking for treats. From there we needed a break so went to a small campground where a Vietnamese family were barbequing chicken. What they didn’t realize was there was a large male black bear on the other side of a building making his way up the creek toward them. They got their kids in the cars and honked a lot. It wasn’t until after one of the men started throwing sticks at him did he wander back into the bush. At one point one of the Vietnamese men threw a chicken leg at him. (Probably not the best strategy for shooing away a hungry bear). In the early afternoon we saw a baby fawn who was a little mixed up. She was looking for her mommy and went towards the wrong doe. Much to her surprise the doe attacked her, then the two does got in a fight and the baby managed to get away. It must have been quite young as it was even sniffing a buck looking for her mommy. I hope mommy and baby managed to get reunited at some point. Sunday evening we found another fawn and managed to photograph it for a couple hours before going back to the hotel room. More deer images from Waterton National Park.

Waterton National Park Day Two...

I slept in til 6:30, then went out to check on what I figure must be a fox den. When I got  to the spot in the road and looked up, sure enough there were four foxes sitting out on mound of the den. I was a little late in getting there, but just after I got there, mom promptly left, then ten minutes later returned with several moles or mice or something. What a hunter! She dropped them off at the den for the babies and then left again.

Saturday morning we went up the hill again and didn’t see much. It was too hot out for the animals so we only saw a herd of big horn sheep.

In the early afternoon we found a mom and fawn so we photographed her for a bit. Gaye went to meet our friends for lunch and by the time I finished talking to her, mom and baby had given me the slip, so I went for lunch. Our friends went home and Gaye and I went up the hill again. This time we saw the cinamon bear and black bear baby that our friends saw and managed to get a couple cute pictures of them. We came back into town for supper, then decided to go up the hill one more time. The light was getting dim and we hadn’t seen anything. We were almost out of light and ready to give up when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a couple tiny black objects high up in the tree. I asked Gaye to stop and said there’s bear cubs in the tree. She stopped right under the tree and we were trying to look up to see them but were at a bad angle as they were directly above us. As she was telling me that they weren’t bear cubs, I looked at the bottom of the tree and sure enough, not ten feet away was mom. And there weren’t two cubs in the tree, there were three. So there I was with a camera and lens set up to photograph bears at 100 yards and they were ten feet away. My lens doesn’t even focus until the 18’ mark. Luckily I had another camera at my feet and got a few shots as the cubs came down the tree.

The extra evening drive paid off and the timing was perfect. With the light dying we took pictures of the bear family for a few minutes, they disappeared into the bush, the light was gone and satisfied with our sighting we headed back to the hotel. I'm looking forward to checking out the fox den tomorrow morning. Hopefully I will have a chance to see the kits again.

For more wildlife pictures check out my Harvey Wildlife Photography website.

Waterton National Park 2012

Waterton 2012
We arrived late Thursday night to give us a full day of wildlife viewing before the crowds showed up for the long weekend. A friend of mine and his wife and their five month old baby met us in Waterton so we would be able to spend a couple days together.

Friday morning us guys got up while the women and baby slept and I showed my friend around town and checked out red rock canyon parkway to no wildlife avail.

Later on in the morning Gaye and I went up Cameron Lake road and saw a black bear and two cubs (yearlings). She had a black cub and a cinamon cub and we hung around her general area and photographed them for about 45 minutes. They went into the bush so we left, then found a cinamon black bear on her own and photographed her for a couple minutes then came back. On the way back we found the bear trio again and photographed them for about another 45 minutes. On the way back into town Gaye found a fox kit and we stopped to take a couple shots of him.

The deer are really scarce this year as they are being chased out of town by the wardens. People are trying to pet them and have been doing stupid things, so the deer have injured several people and have killed 5 dogs over the past while (year? five years? I don’t know). Our friend did see a deer fawn late last night, so that is good news. At least there is one around.

Friday afternoon I had a little snooze while my friend and his wife and baby went down the Cameron Lake road. They ended up seeing a cinamon bear with a tiny black cub then later saw another black bear.

Friday night we managed to find a deer fawn and got a few pictures of it before it hid in the tall grass. Several sheep came into town and were strolling around the main street, then later decided to prune all of flowers off the shrubs in front of our hotel room sliding glass door. When we came in the other side, there was a sheep in front of our door licking the salt off the sidewalk.

Just before bed our friends decided to go on a little walk. A mother deer decided to cross a swift flowing creek in town and the the baby couldn’t get across and it got swept up and was off to the lake when a warden rescued it and wrapped the poor shivering thing up in a towel. Hopefully mom and baby were reunited okay.

A little scarce on the deer side this year, but all in all a pretty fun first day.