Ask Zimo: Photographers need to give wildlife plenty of room.


While sitting in St Luke’s this morning, I read the Idaho Statesman. Yup! I really did read it … at least the interesting parts. And here is one of those interesting parts, an article by Pete Zimowski entitled Photographers Need To Give Wildlife Plenty of Room. This article has to do with wildlife in general, not specifically the Boise Downtown Peregrines. Enjoy!

Ask Zimo: Photographers need to give wildlife plenty of room
– Idaho Statesman
Published: 04/28/11

Question: I’m a big fan of the Hulls Gulch owlets, but I am concerned about them being loved to death. I just passed by the nest and found people climbing up the small mound of dirt at the base of the cliff. They were trying to get as close to the nest as possible to snap photographs of each other standing in front of it.
I’m sure this was disconcerting to the vigilant parents as well as the owlets. How close is too close?

Answer: That’s definitely too close and sounds like a disaster waiting to happen for the owls.
First, it’s against the law to harass wildlife, and that sounds like harassment.
Then there are the ethics involved in a situation like that. Wildlife should be given its space and not disturbed.
I shot photos of baby owls in that area years ago and did it just off the road with a 300mm lens. The birds didn’t seem disturbed, and that was good.
But last week I had a reminder about being careful around wildlife while taking a photo of an owl at Bruneau Dunes State Park.
An owl was sitting on a nest in a tree right next to the campground road. People were walking by, and the owl didn’t seem disturbed.
I walked toward the nest and got about 20 yards from the tree, much farther away than the people passing by. But because I was standing still, the owl got nervous. It flew off the nest for a short time.
That was a bad move on my part even though I was trying to be as unintrusive as possible. I immediately left to allow the owl to return.
One of the keys to wildlife-photography ethics is to always have the critter’s well-being in mind.
It’s good to learn about wildlife and their habits so you have a better feel for whether you are disturbing the bird or animal.
Ideally, you don’t want to cause wildlife to run, leave their feeding area, flush off a nest or leave a den. They shouldn’t be chased away from their young.
Animals shouldn’t be pursued for the ultimate photo. No shot is worth the stress to wildlife.
As you approach wildlife for a photo, gauge the reaction of the animal. You can tell by its body language whether an animal or bird is getting antsy.
That’s when you should size up the situation and decide whether you should still pursue the photo.
Is that hawk ruffling its feathers and moving its wings? Are the ears on the moose drawn back? That’s a definite sign that you are in trouble.
Is that deer snorting? Have the antelope stopped grazing and started staring at you?
Shorebirds and waterfowl will often act like they are injured and try to lure you away from a nest.
The instant you see some sort of concern or hint of stress on an animal, put more distance between you and it and use a longer lens.
You may still be able to get the shot without disturbing the animal.
In the case of grazing animals like antelope and deer, if you back off a little, they will go back to eating and you will get the shot. Above all, don’t bait animals to get them closer.
Back to the owls. Getting that close to the nest was definitely a violation of ethics and probably the law. It’s a wonder that the adult owls didn’t divebomb the people trying to get the photo. Owls can be aggressive when protecting their young.

I have taken many wildlife photos. I do believe that I am extremely careful as to how I approach the animal. That is one reason I own two telephoto lens, one being a 300mm, and a good tripod.
And to put all of this in perspective: The Boise Downtown falcons are usually not on the ground or at a level where we can approach them at an unsafe distance. If they are on the ground: Leave Them Alone. We are not licensed to handle these birds and approaching them may end in a catastrophe for the birds. As for us, their talons are very strong and sharp!!! Call the Idaho Fish and Game, one of the Boise Falcon Watch Team or the Peregrine Fund and they will get you the appropriate help. The idea is to keep the falcon out of “Harms Way”. Keep Looking Up – Your best photo may be up there. Cheers!

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