Comment: Grizzly bears more useful alive than dead

Grizzly photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Grizzly photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Chris Genovali / Times Colonist
July 17, 2014

One can only conclude that Naomi Yamamoto, provincial minister of tourism and small business, was poorly briefed with regard to the grizzly bear hunt after reading about her recent speech on Saltspring Island.

Having B.C.’s tourism minister put forth the notion that the proliferation of oilsands pipelines and oil tankers, along with the escalation of a host of other industrial-scale resource extraction activities, would somehow be compatible with a robust tourism industry based on the natural beauty of the province is dubious. But for Yamamoto to suggest that bear viewing is compatible with the trophy-killing of bears, and then disproportionately claim that the grizzly hunt is a chief economic driver for the province, is inexplicably out of touch.

Contrary to Yamamoto’s assertions, there is no ecological, ethical or economic justification for continuing to trophy-kill B.C.’s grizzly bears.

The ecological argument is clear — killing bears for “management” purposes is unnecessary and scientifically unsound. Although attempts are made to dress up B.C.’s motivations in the trappings of “sound science,” the province is clearly driven by an anachronistic ideology that is disconcertingly fixated on killing as a legitimate and necessary tool of wildlife management.

Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation, large carnivore expert and co-author of a 2013 published peer-reviewed paper on B.C. bear management, states: “We analyzed only some of the uncertainty associated with grizzly management and found it was likely contributing to widespread overkills. I’m not sure how the government defines sound science, but an approach that carelessly leads to widespread overkills is less than scientifically credible.”

The ethical argument is clear — gratuitous killing for recreation is unacceptable and immoral. Polling shows that nine out of 10 British Columbians agree, from rural residents (including many hunters) to city dwellers.

In their 2009 publication The Ethics of Hunting, Michael Nelson and Kelly Millenbah state that if wildlife managers began “to take philosophy and ethics more seriously, both as a realm of expertise that can be acquired and as a critical dimension of wildlife conservation, many elements of wildlife conservation and management would look different.”

During her Saltspring appearance, Yamamoto attempted to downplay widespread public concern about the grizzly hunt by stating: “it’s not like a bear gets killed every day.”

Given that an average of 300 grizzlies and 3,900 black bears (according to the B.C. Wildlife Federation) are killed for trophies in B.C. annually, the minister’s statement is not only flippant, but callous to the disturbing amount of carnage inflicted on bears in this province every year for the most trivial of reasons — recreational trophy hunting.

The economic argument is clear — recent research by the Centre for Responsible Travel at Stanford University says that bear-viewing supports 10 times more employment, tourist spending and government revenue than trophy hunting in B.C.’s vast Great Bear Rainforest.

Notably, the CREST Stanford study suggests the revenue generated by fees and licences affiliated with the trophy killing of grizzlies fails to cover the cost of the province’s management of the hunt. As a result, B.C. taxpayers, most of whom oppose the hunt according to poll after poll, are in essence being forced to subsidize the trophy killing of grizzlies.

For Yamamoto to suggest that banning the grizzly bear hunt would jeopardize the province’s ability to “generate the extra revenue to pay for health care, education and all those things that people are demanding” is astoundingly off-base.

The 2014 CREST Stanford study reaffirms what Coastal First Nations, the eco-tourism industry and conservation groups like Raincoast have been pointing out for years — keeping grizzly bears alive generates significantly greater economic benefits than killing them via trophy hunting.

In 2003, Raincoast and the Centre for Integral Economics released the report Crossroads: Economics, Policy, and the Future of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, which compared revenues generated by grizzly viewing versus grizzly hunting.

Even more than a decade ago, when the bear-viewing sector of the ecotourism industry was in its nascent stage, viewing grizzlies was bringing in about twice the annual revenue as grizzly hunting.

Our analysis showed that in the long term, it makes more economic sense to shoot grizzly bears with cameras than to shoot them with guns. Over the course of a grizzly’s life, the bear can be viewed and photographed hundreds of times, generating tremendous economic wealth for B.C.

However, a grizzly bear can only be shot and killed once.

Chris Genovali is executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

- See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-grizzly-bears-more-useful-alive-than-dead-1.1209390#sthash.o2fie8k1.dpuf

Anti-hunters Outnumber Hunters by Three to One

whoownschart

It’s like the 1% vs. the 99% ratio. This graph came from an opinion piece entitled, “Who Owns the Wildlife?” which starts out:

More and more we as a society are facing problems with how wildlife of all types are managed in the United States. We see increasing conflicts and polarization between hunting and anti-hunting groups. On the one side, invoking the pioneer tradition of our ancestors, hunting groups contend that the right to hunt is undeniable and is essential to the sound management of our wildlife resources. On the other hand, anti-hunting groups contend that the need to kill wildlife animals is no longer justified and hunting represents a next to barbaric act against living, feeling animals.

Long line of hunters on a mountain trail.

Long line of hunters walk a mountain trail. Hunters contend that they are the only ones who should have a say in how wildlife are managed.
[I just want to interject here that as a wildlife photographer/watcher, the parking permit I purchase (the same one that comes with a hunting or fishing license) allegedly goes toward enhancing habitat. I recently saw the results of my contribution when I pulled down what used to be a quiet road which ends at a river and found that the "game" department had built a huge paved parking lot with 20 lined, blacktop spaces for trucks and boat trailers. They also put in a boat launch with a brand new dock and installed a shiny new 2-seater pit toilet--all for the sake of duck hunters and sport fishermen. Meanwhile, they did nothing for ducks or wildlife habitat.]

 

On one side, hunters contend that because they pay the bills for the management of wildlife resources through their licenses and a federal excise tax on their hunting equipment, they are the only ones who should have a say in how wildlife are managed. On the other side, anti-hunters argue that moral objections to the slaying of innocent animals overrides any priority as to who has a say in these matters. 

And the arguments go on and on….

This Christmas, Show the Hunters that You Care

Judging by the frost on the grass and the ice on the birdbath, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. This year, your gifts can make a statement—they can show the hunters that you care.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean you should show hunters that you care about them—no, quite the opposite—I mean you can show the hunters that you care about wildlife. And what better way than purchasing a pro-wildlife/anti-hunting book, like Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport?

You’re probably not the type to camp out in front of Wal-Mart for the best deals on Asian sweatshop-produced, future landfill-clogging plastic trinkets, or you wouldn’t be here reading this post this morning–you’d be out there battling the crowds. Well, you won’t have to stand in line and risk being plowed through by some crazed shopper driving a Humvee or lose your tot in a crowded superstore while attempting to purchase Exposing the Big Game. You can order copies online from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not a fan of Amazon.com, feel free to email me at exposingthebiggame@gmail.com for signed copies sent directly to your doorstep. Or you can ask your local “brick and mortar” bookstore (which is more than likely on the verge of going out of business) to order in a copy or copies for you. And of course, Exposing the Big Game is also available in e-book form.

Each year there are a dozen or so new pro-hunting books on the market, while Exposing the Big Game is the only anti-hunting book to come out in decades, and the only one still in print. Don’t let the hunting industry think you’re indifferent about wildlife issues; Tis the season to show them that you care!

http://www.earth-books.net/books/exposing-the-big-game

front-cover-low-res6

 

 

Wolf watchers want IDs of dead animals near park

http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=10393

State laws keeps data about legally killed wolves secret.

By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

October 16, 2013

Hunters have reported killing five wolves in a Wyoming hunt area that abuts Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley, raising fears a park pack has been crippled.

Wolf watchers in the Lamar Valley — perhaps the most famous place on Earth to spot a Canis lupus in the wild — fear the worst: that the animals killed were members of the Lamar Canyon Pack. It had 11 members at the end of last year.

One wolf advocate says he sought the identity of the wolves killed in area two from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department but didn’t get any answers.

“They’re hiding behind their statute that says they can only release so much information, which is a bogus excuse,” said Marc Cooke, president of Wolves of the Rockies. “They might as well face the reality that there’s a good possibility that wolves killed were from Yellowstone.”

It’s impossible to say if one or more of the five wolves killed over a span of three days last week were Lamar Canyon Pack wolves, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials said.

“There’s no way to know, we just don’t have that information,” Game and Fish spokesman Alan Dubberley said.

Because none of the animals killed wore radio collars, pinpointing their pack identity is impossible, Dubberley said. It’s also illegal to say precisely where the five wolves in hunt area two, located northeast of Cody, were killed, he said.

The wolves, all killed between Thursday and Sunday, included two males and three females, the spokesman said.

The weekend’s harvest pushed area two one over its 2013 hunt quota of four wolves. Last year, eight wolves were allowed to be killed in area two. Statewide the quota has also been slashed in half — from 52 to 26.

An estimated 277 wolves inhabited Wyoming, including Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation, at the end of 2012. That’s nearly double the 150 wolves required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which removed federal protections from the predators last year.

Dave Hallac, Yellowstone’s Center for Resources chief, said that he heard word of the wolf harvests near the park boundary from Game and Fish on Monday.

“They simply let us know there is a reasonable possibility those wolves could be from the Lamar Canyon Pack,” Hallac said. The Lamar Canyon Pack, which contains no radio collared animals, had been documented recently outside of the park, he said.

Game and Fish officials said they were unaware of the communication with Yellowstone.

In fall 2012 Wyoming’s Lamar Canyon Pack attracted international attention when wolf 832F, the pack’s world-famous alpha female, was killed by a hunter during Wyoming’s inaugural regulated hunt. That fall the pack fractured, with some animals returning to Yellowstone and some joining the Hoodoo Pack, which also roams Wyoming wolf hunt area two.

By the time hunting seasons closed, 12 Yellowstone National Park wolves had been legally killed in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

Natural deaths, run-ins with humans and hunting combined to cut Yellowstone’s wolf numbers by about a quarter.

Wildlife safari guide Howard Goldstein said his business took a hit this summer because the Lamar wolves were harder to find and more wary.

“We get a lot of people who come specifically to see wolves,” said Goldstein, who operates out of Jackson. “Those people are buying guides, buying binoculars, getting hotels.

“They’re generating a tremendous amount of income for communities around Yellowstone,” he said.

Goldstein, like Cooke, lamented not knowing the identities of the wolves killed over the weekend.

“We don’t know if it’s the Lamar Canyon Pack or the Hoodoo Pack, because the state won’t tell us anything,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein called for the state to be more open with the wolf watching community.

“I can understand not giving us the names, addresses and the phone numbers of the hunters who killed the wolves,” Goldstein said, “but to literally give us no information other than the number of wolves killed and the district they were killed in is not OK.”

Wyoming state law restricts what Game and Fish officials can say about any wolf that’s been legally killed.

Details such as age, coloration, breeding status and location are to be kept secret. This fall the state began sharing the sex of animals killed. The statute was established to protect the wolf hunters’ identities.

The law states: “Any information regarding the number or nature of wolves legally taken within the state of Wyoming shall only be released in its aggregate form and no information of a private or confidential nature shall be released without the written consent of the person to whom the information may refer. Information identifying any person legally taking a wolf within this state is solely for the use of the department or appropriate law enforcement offices and is not a public record.”

Game and Fish officials are forward about the restrictive nature of the statute in terms of information dissemination.

“We’re under pretty strict regulations about what we can and can’t say,” Game and Fish large carnivore manager Dan Thompson said.

Pack affiliation for the wolves recently killed in area two will be included in the 2013 gray wolf annual report. The 2012 annual report was released this April, three months after the hunt ended.

Cooke said he wasn’t pleased to have a lengthy wait ahead to find out whether or not the wolves were Lamar Canyon pack animals.

He called for Montana and Wyoming to cut back on already-reduced quotas in hunt areas near Yellowstone’s boundaries.

“Hunters have the whole state to operate in if they want to go kill wolves,” the Wolves of the Rockies president said.

“Wildlife watchers don’t have that luxury,” Cooke said. “We need to give them that luxury.”

copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

Wildlife Watchers Outnumber Hunters 5-1

Wages from wildlife watchers

FWP takes measured approach to adding new wildlife stakeholders

LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer September 15, 2013

Autumn can seem distant if you’re a hunter with a license burning a hole in your pocket and more than a month left until rifle season.

Big-game rifle hunters must bide their time, sighting in their scopes or scouting their locations while waiting for Oct. 26. Meanwhile, bird hunters and archers are already out in the fields, enduring summer temperatures as they make the best of the time they have.

Such has been the fall ritual for many Montanans.

But just as fall now has fewer cool days, it also has fewer hunters.

That doesn’t bode well for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, which depends on sportsmen’s dollars.

FWP is reassessing its finances to decide how much to increase license fees to manage wildlife through another decade. The dwindling number of sportsmen may require FWP to turn to a new funding pool: the nongame user.

Wildlife watchers and photographers are a growing segment of the population that outnumbers sportsmen 5-to-1 nationwide. In 2011, wildlife watchers spent more than $400 million on viewing equipment and travel in Montana.

While some wildlife watchers agree that they should contribute to wildlife agencies, the details of how to target a fee and what it should pay for have eluded managers for more than 20 years.

“State Parks had that challenge, and they got those license-plate fees,” said Montana Audubon Program Director Janet Ellis. “The Legislature needs to figure out how FWP can get a little slice of something like that.”

For a century, sportsmen have been the financial backbone of state wildlife management because of license fees and taxes on guns, ammunition and fishing gear.

Prior to the digital age, such funding was solid.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national survey, conducted every five years, the number of hunters with Montana tags has been fairly steady since 1991, bouncing around 200,000.

In 2011, when the number of hunters appears to have rebounded nationwide, 50,000 fewer hunters ventured into Montana’s wildlands, according to the survey.

That estimate is not exact, but FWP financial analyst Hank Worsech said license sales supports that decline.

He calculated that license sales have declined 2.5 percent over the past three years. Last year was the first that nonresident hunting licenses didn’t sell out.

The Wildlife Society calculated a 36 percent drop in the sale of Duck Stamps, required for all who hunt waterfowl, since the 1970s.

Some claim nonresident hunters aren’t coming to Montana due to perceptions that predators have eliminated game.

But states without wolves have similar problems. For instance, Vermont had a 50-percent drop in nonresident hunters.

A more worrying explanation is that older hunters are retiring from the game and fewer youth are coming in. Half of hunters are 50 or older. Young people tend to be more interested in video games and social media.

“Western states are competing for less and less people,” Worsech said.

Fishing has managed to hold on to greater popularity, but it too has seen a decline.

The trend could destabilize future FWP funding.

FWP depends on license sales for half its budget because it receives no money from the state’s general fund. Federal money accounts for most of the rest.

“We operate in a world of, ‘We have a product to sell and we run on the revenue we collect.’ We’re different from other state agencies — we run more like a business,” said FWP Finance Division administrator Sue Daly.

License sales were brisk enough until four years ago. But since 2009, sales totals have decreased while the bills continued to increase, putting the agency in the red.

Part of that deficit is planned.

Montana’s Legislature, like those in several states, considers license fee increases every 10 years. During the ensuing decade, the FWP bottom line slides from black to red as inflation rises.

This time, it’s different.

Fewer license sales have combined with inflation to force the bottom line down faster. To slow the decline, FWP cut some programs, and committees are proposing to eliminate some discounted licenses.

If the negative-sales trend continues, legislators will have to hike license fees significantly to keep the budget on par.

That’s bound to prompt complaints from some hunters.

But some, like Randy Newberg, think Montana’s fees are low considering the hunting opportunity they provide and the conservation efforts that benefit the state economy.

“We need to tie (fee increases) to an annual consumer price index. Small increases are easier to swallow than a big increase,” Newberg said. “If hunters aren’t willing to pay more, they’re saying, ‘I’m willing to give up my seat at the table.’”

That table may get a bit more crowded in the next few years.

“I’m trying to sell my members on (fee increases) because there is pushback,” said Montana Wildlife Federation spokesman Nick Gevock. “But we need to look beyond hunters and anglers because everyone enjoys wildlife. Funding will be the conservation challenge of the 21st century.”

FWP has watched as other states recently confronted that challenge.

Wyoming Game and Fish had to cut its 2014 budget by $4.8 million because of declining license sales and the Wyoming Legislature’s refusal to approve a fee increase.

Last summer, after watching its license sales decrease by 25 percent, Idaho Fish and Game organized the Idaho Wildlife Summit to find alternative funding.

“As far as trying to find non-consumptive funding, that was never the overall plan. But we knew we were plowing new ground,” said Idaho game spokesman Mike Keckler. “Since then, the regional working groups have helped us come up with a few ideas for funding nongame programs.”

Keckler said the summit was meant to renew enthusiasm for wildlife.

But some hunting groups weren’t enthusiastic because wildlife watchers include wolf watchers. So controversy overshadowed the search for solutions.

Some groups, such as Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, accused the Idaho Summit and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies of favoring wildlife viewers and photographers over hunters.

Non-consumptive users shouldn’t have a say in the wildlife management that sportsmen have paid for, according to a Lobo Watch blog post written by Toby Bridges.

Big Game Forever spokesman Ryan Benson said wolves caused the financial problem, along with associated lawsuits.

“I don’t think we should scrap the user-based model,” Benson said. “States couldn’t protect their wildlife because of a federal program. The federal wolf recovery was a major contributing factor so there should be some help from the federal level.”

In Montana, FWP Commissioner Dan Vermillion recently suggested that wildlife advocates could contribute to that user-based model.

When wolf advocates claimed thousands opposed increasing wolf-hunt quotas, Vermillion suggested that they buy wolf tags. If FWP saw a sudden surge in license sales, then they’d have a better feel for the number of wolf advocates, Vermillion said.

That didn’t go over well with wolf advocates, but Vermillion said FWP needs to find ways to bolster hunters’ contributions.

“I think we’re tricking ourselves if we don’t recognize that Montana and the U.S. are changing. Look at Bozeman – it’s full of wildlife enthusiasts,” Vermillion said. “Hunting and fishing are important, but we need to bring new stakeholders to the table.”

Wolves of the Rockies spokeswoman Kim Bean said advocates would never buy tags because they fund only collaring and lethal control.

Wolfwatcher Coalition executive director Diane Bentivegna said her 250,000 members would send contributions to wildlife agencies in every state that manages wolves but there’s a catch: The money could go only toward non-lethal wildlife programs.

“Under current budgetary structure, we aren’t allowed to say where our contributions go. We would like to introduce legislation that would allow us to fund agencies and have it go toward the programs that we support,” Bentivegna said.

Not every species has a support group, and direct donations aren’t regular enough to help.

Wildlife agencies need to find a vehicle, such as a tax on equipment or a license plate fee, that provides a steady flow of money if non-traditional contributions are to be helpful.

Montana has a non-game donation that residents can make when they file their taxes, but it brings in only about $27,000 a year.

This summer, FWP non-game section chief Laurie Hanauska-Brown organized a meeting to “have the first discussion” with wildlife and birding organizations about how to bring more users in.

“The message can’t be communicated as, ‘C’mon you non-consumptive users, it’s time to step to the table,’” Hanauska-Brown said. “We want to make sure we’re covering all the species so that we can bring more people on board.”

FWP is taking a very long-term approach with non-consumptive funding and will focus on more concrete options first, Hanauska-Brown said.

Newberg, although not opposed, is skeptical that recreational users will step up. He cited the failure of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act in 2000, when several manufacturers and groups rejected a tax on outdoor equipment.

“It was finally their chance to do what hunters do, but they bailed out,” Newberg said. “Hunters and anglers pay an excise tax. It’s disingenuous to say, ‘We want a say in wildlife, but we don’t want to pay for anything.’”

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

The “Conservationists” are about to go hunting – again

The following blog post is from the Friends of Edie Road (a group of  bird watchers and wildlife watchers who are proposing repurposing the Edie Road area to non-hunting for three primary reasons:

1. Having hunters and other visitors present in quantity at the same time, in the same area, is an accident waiting to happen.

2. The growing base of non-hunting visitors is seriously under-represented in the WDFW land use decision making process. There are many more birders and photographers visiting the site than hunters.

3. This site is unique for birding because it is flat, easily accessible, and most important: a large variety of bird species love it.

http://friendsofeideroad.org/blog/blog_index.php?pid=10&p=&search=#blt

August 21st, 2013

I never meant this website to become a sounding board for a debate on the appropriateness of hunting as exemplary human behavior. However, I have received so many emails alleging that hunters are conservationists, I feel compelled to offer a few comments that hopefully some of the email writers may consider.
Conservation, according to my dictionary, is the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation, as conservation of wildlife.
The word conservation has been hijacked by people who take pleasure in doing the exact opposite of the definition. They inflict injury, kill and maim without any emotional regret of compassion, and lay waste to entire flocks of wild creatures every season. Hunting is bloody, emotionless killing for pleasure, and changing the description to “recreational opportunity” does not change the act. Nor does the use of “harvesting” make migrating waterfowl into a crop. Nor does describing a hunter as conservationist make that true. The pheasant season is once again upon us. The state sponsored killing of tame, farm-raised pheasant will frighten most of the shorebirds away from Eide Road until the end of November. This is not the way to demonstrate conservation.
But if you hunters look out along the paved road and parking area, you will see that there is an new and growing group of real conservationists emerging. They have invaded your hunt club by posting their yellow Discover Pass inside their windshield. They don’t carry guns but field guides, spotting scopes, and cameras. They exhibit a combination of awe and respect for the wild creatures they encounter, and shock and dismay at seeing them needlessly killed.
Your email comments talked about hunting’s wonderful heritage, all the land hunters paid for with “duck stamps” and how no species can thrive without scientific management. You have bought into the justification propaganda the NRA fashions to sell more guns and ammo. All the land hunters may have helped set aside does not justify killing the animals that occupy that land — for their own good.
Cruelty by any other name is still cruelty.

Some hunter apparently couldn’t wait for a pheasant so he unloaded his 12 gauge on the Discover Pass sign at Eide Road – mid-August 2013.

Letting Wildlife Live Makes Good Economic Sense

Hunting vs Birding and Wildlife Watching

June 2012
Peter M. W. Murray

•Birding and Wildlife watching contributed $38.4 billion dollars to the nation’s economy in 2001. This resulted in $95.8 billion added to the economy, accounted for over 1 million jobs and 13 billion in tax revenue.
•Birdwatching is the fastest growing form of outdoor recreation….up 236 % from 1982- 2001. Birders spent $32 billion, generating $85 billion of economic benefits to the country, produced $13 billion of tax revenue and accounted for 863,406 jobs.
•Hunting and Fishing contributed $24.8 billion to the nation’s economy in 2001. This added $67 billion to the economy and accounted for over 575,000 jobs. $2.3 billion in taxes were generated by this sector of the economy.(Int Ass of Fish and Wildlife Agencies)
•2010 Yellowstone had 3,640,205 visitors.
•$2.5 billion was spent by tourists in Montana in 2010.

Photo copyright Jim Robertson

Photo copyright Jim Robertson

Beware the Beaver

Apparently some folks need to be reminded: don’t try to manhandle a beaver that doesn’t want to be touched.

A fisherman in Belarus learned that the hard way; when he reached down to pick it up, the beaver—no doubt feeling cornered—bit him in what was unfortunately a major artery. The 60 year old angler died of his wounds, but he was probably too old to learn from the experience anyway. Perhaps others can learn from it instead.

Again, in case you missed it above, DON’T TRY TO PICK UP WILD ANIMALS! Humans aren’t known for being the most benign of creatures, especially to a beaver, whose species we once hunted and trapped practically to extinction. It’s perfectly understandable that they would distrust an approaching two-legger, especially one who is intent on hooking fish. Any animal will do what it can to defend itself against the threat of being killed and/or eaten. Beavers have a couple of very sharp, tree-lopping teeth to resort to when push comes to shove.

Some papers reported that the human victim was trying to pick the animal up to pose with it for a photo. If so, it was another case of stupidity for the sake of vanity. Still, it won’t necessarily earn him a coveted Darwin Award; others have him beat. I knew a photographer that used to frequent Yellowstone (past tense, since he’s no longer with us) who would creep up to within a few yards of a grizzly bear’s fresh kill, hoping for a close-up shot.

Although the aim of wildlife photography is non-lethal, photographers shouldn’t take it as a free pass to disturb animals at will. Unfortunately, some who “shoot” with a camera have a mind-set similar to that of a typical trophy hunter. Wearing face paint and cammo from head to toe (some are in fact off-season hunters, while others just enjoy dressing up like one), these self-serving photographers are often seen standing along the roadway photographing animals who are quite obviously aware of their presence. Believing themselves invisible (cleverly disguised as a tree or a bush), they crowd in and get as chummy as they want to their quarry, no matter that their urge for closeness isn’t mutual.

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen people, both professionals and point-and-shooters, run right up to a bison, elk, moose or bear hoping for a trophy shot or souvenir. Every year, irresponsible photo-getters are gored, trampled or charged by animals annoyed enough to feel they must defend themselves. But untouchably elite Homo sapiens don’t like being put in their place, and over-protective parks’ departments routinely execute a one-strike-you’re-out policy in response to any defensive actions taken by ordinary nonhumans.

Careless behavior by photographers can force animals to leave their familiar surroundings, separate mothers from their young or interrupt natural activities necessary for survival. Hardly a day goes by without the inevitable park visitor committing the amateurish, impatient act of yelling or honking at a peaceful herbivore so he or she will quit grazing and look up towards the camera. And there’s always some joker who throws part of his sandwich out the window to draw in a bear or coyote.

Once in Yellowstone I reported such an incident to a ranger who pointed at the coyote and asked, “Is that the culprit?” “No,” was my exasperated reply, “The culprit is the guy who threw out his sandwich!”

Portions of this post were excerpted from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Chapter Titles

Here’s the Table of Contents for Exposing the Big Game?
Foreword by Captain Paul Watson

Introduction

Chapter 1) Hide-hunting Holocaust Survivors Still under Fire

Chapter 2) An Act of Bison Altruism

Chapter 3) War on Coyotes an Exercise in Futility and Cruelty

Chapter 4) Time to End a Twisted Tradition

Chapter 5) Avian Superstar Both Athlete and Egghead

Chapter 6) From the Brink of Oblivion and Back Again?

Chapter 7) A Day in the Sun for the Hayden Wolves

Chapter 8) Critical Cornerstone of a Crumbling Castle

Chapter 9) Bears Show More Restraint than Ursiphobic Elmers

Chapter 10) The Fall of Autumn’s Envoy

Chapter 11) Inside the Hunter’s Mind

Chapter 12) A Magical World of Oneness

Chapter 13) Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Chapter 14) A Few Words on Ethical Wildlife Photography

In Closing

Acknowledgements:

Looking back, this was not, at the outset, planned as a podium from which to lambaste anyone’s hobby or heritage, but was originally intended as a venue for relating some of the behaviors and capabilities I’d observed among animals living in the wild, and as a celebration of life along the compassion continuum. However, after delving deeper into the histories of the species covered here—thanks in part to the invaluable references listed below—I found it impossible to simply depict their natural activities without also chronicling the shocking stories of abuse they have suffered at the hands of man. It would have been doing the animals a disservice to merely record how they naturally lived without at least alluding to the far-reaching and pervasive ways that human actions have altered their lives and sometimes their very natures. And the facts are clear: there has been no greater direct human impact on wildlife than the ongoing threat of hunting. As with the other pertinent and profound quotes from a variety of enlightened sources, this one from Edward Abbey proficiently puts it in a nutshell, “It is not enough to understand the natural world. The point is to defend and preserve it.”