Hi there, welcome to the very first BeazPhotoBlog. Thanks for joining me on this new venture and I hope you follow along and enjoy the content along the way. I’m really looking forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions for future content.
“The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.” -John Muir
I’ve decided to use the opportunity to publish my first blog post to set a tone and write about something I feel very passionate about; human interaction with wildlife. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in the field observing, enjoying, and photographing wildlife in wild places I’ve seen my share of human misbehavior. We must all endeavor to evaluate our personal behavior in the outdoors. Understand where we’re treading, how close it the wildlife, how much noise or light am I making and could I alter my course to avoid an unnatural encounter?
I recently read a post shared on the Grand Teton National Park Facebook Page. The post describes a Red Fox in the park that had to be euthanized to due extreme food-conditioning and habituation to humans. Here’s an excerpt from the Park Service’s public news release. “The fox was captured, immobilized, and transported to a location away from visitors to be dispatched. The fox was of a normal healthy weight, and samples were taken to determine its dietary composition. Relocation of the fox was considered, but ultimately dismissed, as relocated foxes typically continue to beg for human food in a new area, return to their original territory, or die due to starvation or competition with other territorial foxes.” Reports indicate that the fox would emerge from the cover of the woods and beg for food each time a car would come by, and eventually started jumping up on cars too. A tragic and needless ending to what should have been a thriving wild animal.
This got me thinking and reflecting on my own experience in nature and the times that I’ve stewed inside when seeing someone too close to an animal or coaxing it from the shadows to get a better look. We’ve probably all seen the obvious examples, whether on YouTube or in person. Like the blissfully ignorant tourist getting much too close to a Bison in Yellowstone for that epic selfie. Or the woman on vacation in Florida who thought it would be fun to “ride” a Manatee while it was in the throes of a mating frenzy close to shore. But how about the less obvious occasions that might look innocent enough or so commonplace that it just doesn’t register in our brains as risky human/animal interaction? What if it’s even something we’ve done in the past ourselves; knowingly or unknowingly.
Is feeding ducks ok? Is feeding squirrels ok? Or how about that friendly doe that frequents our backyard for an afternoon snack. Is that ok? Have we treated this kind of behavior with tacit approval since it “seems” so innocuous or cute? How about a photographer stalking a bird for a better camera angle and causing it to fly to a safer location or when we approach a nest too closely and cause the parent to flee? Think about that exposed egg or chick in the nest. How long will it be before a predator seizes the opportunity to raid an empty nest? Regardless of how inculpable these circumstances are, they are all examples of inappropriate human/wildlife interactions.
But what if the animal is struggling or “looks hungry” or “looks cold?” Are there not circumstances when we should step in and give it a helping hand? Yes, of course, there are, but these are unique and isolated instances when a professional is generally needed to step in and take action to safely capture the animal or even; in some circumstances, euthanize the animal. Wild animals are survivors. They endure incredible hardships on a routine basis that we can hardly fathom. Yes, they might look cold, or hungry or lonely, but they’re living their life as intended and know how to get through the tough times. Their ability to endure is what ensures their survival. If this synthesis is interrupted by us, regardless of how well-intentioned we are, then we put the animal’s success for survival at risk.
We all must do our part in preventing wild animal habituation to humans. They are wild for a reason and they’re happy that way. When we insert ourselves into their natural rhythm and disrupt their patterns of survival, we put them at risk…
– At risk of consuming the wrong handout.
– At risk for hurting you or the next person who comes along.
– At risk of becoming dependent and so habituated to humans that they can no longer survive on their own.
– At risk of being euthanized by rangers or other wildlife professionals become they become a nuisance or danger to you and me.
Please think about your actions before you act. Understand the local regulations for human proximity to wildlife. Many places have rules requiring up to 50 – 100 yards buffer between you and wildlife. That’s pretty far when you think about it. Think about the impact of your movements and how your behavior might affect a wild animal. Are you too close? Have you disrupted this animal’s natural pattern? Should you back off and observe from farther away? Will my presence and behavior attract attention to this animal thus exposing this animal to more humans? In the end, if you do find yourself a little too close, back-off slowly and never turn your back on an animal, especially a large mammal (Moose, Bear, Elk, Mountain Lion, Boar).
I ask you to think about that Red Fox from the Tetons the next time you’re in the outdoors and how you can prevent his friends in the wild from meeting the same fate. Whether we’re out for a casual hike, camping, or in the backcountry for some photography we’re walking in their home, their kitchen, their bedroom, and where they raise their young so we must respect it, and that means all of us.
For more information about ethical wildlife interaction, I recommend seeking reliable information from sources like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Park Service.
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Thank you for your time and Get Outside!