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

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