DON’T FEED THE BEARS!
And while we’re at it, let’s also take a pass on beating our chests and taunting bison while stopping traffic in Yellowstone National Park.
We all have likely by now seen the cellphone footage taken at Yellowstone, last week, of a man (who will remain nameless in this blog post so as to not add to his infamousness) taunting a bison in the middle of a road.
This guy was clearly going out of his way to bring attention to himself to attract the bison towards him by hollering and beating his chest, likely in an attempt to show off to the people in the traffic congestion to which he was responsible for causing.
The bison charged at the offender twice, but never actually made contact. If the bison had done so, this story would have ended differently.
He was arrested a few days later at Glacier National Park, after a string of arrests and incidents at Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. He was lucky to have been arrested rather than be gorged and injured horrically, or killed.
“We appreciate the collaboration of our fellow rangers in Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks on this arrest. Harassing wildlife is illegal in any national park,” said Dan Wenk, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent.
Plain stupid. The behavior probably should not be given the amount of publicity and press that it has, so as not to build any fanfare or notoriety for this 55-year-old man from Oregon.
Encounters between wildlife and people at National Parks are sadly nothing new. And while the above incident may actually be one of the more ridiculous and atrocious of the lot, uncommon they are not. We don’t have to look too far into the past to recall the family that took a baby bison and put it in their van so as to return it to the ranger station because it “looked to be cold.” We don’t have to search too hard on Youtube to find endless lists of videos showcasing people getting too close to animals, usually in vain attempts for selfies and photos. At best, these animals are made to feel uncomfortable and scared. At worst, they, or the humans involved, are injured. Badly.
We at Backcountry Journeys feel that as people who spend a great deal of time inside National Parks actively seeking out wildlife for our photo work, we should take this opportunity to revisit a topic that we’ve touched on before but that should ALWAYS be in the forefront of our minds while doing wildlife photography work.
As photographers, it is important to respect the wildlife we are targeting. Even while shooting landscape work, we have a responsibility to be extra mindful of how our presence affects where we are and the “local’s” homes we may be encroaching upon.
But, ethical field practices extend to more than just not taunting or even getting too close to animals. There is more to it than that.
We have a responsibility to help protect the environments in which we are operating, and the animals we photograph. And to respect ourselves as well as others around us.
The bottom line is to use common sense, but let us discuss, again, some specific things to keep in mind while out there. We’ll most certainly be paying great attention to these details while on any Backcountry Journeys tours.
The following information is taken from a memo posted on The North American Nature Photography Association’s (NANPA) website. NANPA is North America’s preeminent nature photography organization, and is a critical advocate for the rights of nature photographers on a wide range of issues, from intellectual property to public land access for nature photographers:
“…these principles will encourage all who participate in the enjoyment of nature to do so in a way that best promotes good stewardship of the resource.”
ENVIRONMENTAL: KNOWLEDGE OF SUBJECT AND PLACE
-Learn patterns of animal behavior so as not to interfere with animal life cycles.
-Do not distress wildlife or their habitat.
-Respect the routine needs of animals.
-Use appropriate lenses to photograph wild animals.
-If an animal shows stress, move back and use a longer
-Acquaint yourself with the fragility of the ecosystem.
-Stay on trails that are intended to lessen impact.
SOCIAL: KNOWLEDGE OF RULES AND LAWS
-When appropriate, inform managers or other authorities of your presence and purpose.
-Help minimize cumulative impacts and maintain safety.
-Learn the rules and laws of the location.
-If minimum distances exist for approaching wildlife, follow them.
-In the absence of management authority, use good judgment.
-Treat the wildlife, plants and places as if you were their guest.
-Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events.
-Avoid exposing yourself and others to preventable mishaps.
INDIVIDUAL: EXPERTISE AND RESPONSIBILITIES
-Treat others courteously.
-Ask before joining others already shooting in an area.
-Tactfully inform others if you observe them in engaging in inappropriate or harmful behavior.
-Many people unknowingly endanger themselves and animals.
-Report inappropriate behavior to proper authorities.
-Don’t argue with those who don’t care; report them.
-Be a good role model, both as a photographer and a citizen.
-Educate others by your actions; enhance their understanding.
Try to keep in mind this excellent credo: Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs and kill only time.
We want to see and record what is going on out there, yet never influence it.
So, as you set out on your next photographic adventure, we ask that you remember to have all of the pieces of the puzzle come together.
Don’t catch yourself sacrificing ethics in order to create an image. Get the best shot, but do it ethically, using the above list as a guide.
And never, EVER, whether photographing or not, be like the guy from the opening story.
Because he is a baboon. No offense to baboons.