Browsing Tag

wildlife

Live, Play, Shoot

The Selfie Stupidity Has Got to Stop

September 14, 2015
moose

I’m a big fan of selfies, and truth be told, I take a lot of them. Sometimes it’s because I (somewhat narcissistically … ) want to document where I am. Sometimes it’s because I want a human subject in my photos and I’m all that I’ve got.

So yeah, I have no problem with selfies.

This is a selfie! No shame here.

But do you know what does get my goat (pun intended!)? The recklessness of some of the people who are taking them. Specifically, it’s the people who take way-too-close selfies with dangerous wildlife, without realizing that they are putting their lives, as well as the lives of the animals, at risk.

I know I sound like the fun police but please hear me out.

The news this summer has been full of stories of people getting injured (or worse) while trying to take pictures with large or dangerous animals. There was the guy who earned himself a $153,000 hospital bill after being bit by a rattlesnake. There was the woman who was charged by a bison in Yellowstone. And there was the guy in Spain that was gored to death by a bull (not actually wildlife … but also not cuddly!).

And then there are the bear selfies, which are apparently becoming a “thing”. The problem has gotten so that Denver Water recently closed Waterton Canyon because people were getting too close to the resident bear population in order to take pictures with them.

Look, you guys, I get it. I get the desire to take pictures of, and sometimes with, large animals. Taking selfies is fun and apparently nothing looks better in the background of a Facebook profile pic than a big ass moose or bear or bison. But it’s also a really bad idea.

Fall is here and that means a lot more than just the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. For those of us in the northern climates, it means a lot of animals are on the move. The bears are eating their weight in berries before a long winter of hibernation. Deer, elk, and moose are starting to enter the rut season when their antlers are big, their hormones are raging, and they have *ahem* more important things on their mind than posing for pictures with you. Just yesterday I read an account from a wildlife photographer who had a run-in with a bull moose while standing plenty far away from it. He was able safely scurry to safety but think about how bad it could have been if he was closer or more inexperienced. Fall is not the time to mess with these critters.

This isn’t just about keeping you safe. It’s about keeping the animals safe as well. Do you know what happens to a wild animal that gets too accustomed to being around humans or, worse, attacks one? It’s not a happy ending.

I’m not saying that all wildlife photography is bad or risky. I’m just saying that you need to be smart and that getting close to (and then turning your back on) dangerous megafauna is probably not a great idea.

If you’re hellbent on having a large and dangerous wild animal posing with you in your Facebook picture, it may be time to brush up on your Photoshop skills. Or you could do what I do and just stick to selfies with dogs and donkeys.

Happy Monday, everyone! Be safe out there!

Play, Shoot, Travel

The Goats of Blue Lakes

August 6, 2015
bluelakesgoat

It’s no secret that mountain goats are favorite animals on the planet.

They are adorable, character-filled creatures that look like they are straight out of a fairy tail. They’re also tough as nails. They live in places with shaky footing, low temperatures, and very little oxygen, the kind of places that leave most animals (and most humans) longing for lower ground. But not these guys, and do you know why? Because despite their friendly appearance, they are certifiable badasses.

I like to think that the mountain goat is my spirit animal. I’m probably flattering myself.

A few days ago my mom, son, and I went for a drive up to Blue Lakes, outside of Blue River, Colorado. It was the middle of the afternoon when the light was terrible and the toddler was desperately in need of a nap. And there were mountain goats everywhere! I knew that I needed to go back as soon as possible. And lucky for me, my chance came that very night.

When that evening rolled around I loaded up my camera gear and made the short drive from my parents’ house up the road toward the Quandary Peak trailhead. I was desperately hoping that the goats would be out and, let me tell you, I was in luck!

I spent a good hour or two watching and shooting them before heading down the hill a bit to check out the waterfalls. I could have watched them all night.

Here are some shots from the evening. Enjoy!

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Cecil the Lion: What You Can Do

July 30, 2015

CREDIT: VINCE O’SULLIVAN/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Unless you’ve been living under a log or have recently emerged from an extended stay in the backcountry, you’ve probably heard about Cecil the Lion. For those of you who don’t know the story, it goes like this: A dentist from Minnesota with a penchant for killing enormous animals that he has no interesting in eating flew to Zimbabwe, hired some guides, lured a lion out of a protected area, and shot it with a bow. The lion hung on for another 40 hours until it was killed with a shotgun.

That sounds pretty awful, right? It sounds even more awful when you learn that this wasn’t just any lion, but Cecil, a beloved resident of Hwange National Park and long-time study subject of researchers at Oxford University. Basically, this dentist tangled with a feline celebrity.

I am fairly pro-hunting. I am not a hunter but I am also not a vegetarian. I think that responsible hunting in accordance with the law is probably the best way for humans to get the meat that they love to eat, myself included. I get that sometimes animal populations have to be thinned for ecological reasons. I understand that sometimes an individual has to be culled because of it’s threat to humans (as unfair as that seems). This was none of those situations.

Hunting an animal that you’ll never eat just so you can pose with it’s carcass and hang it’s skin on your wall? It’s atrocious. And the smug grin on your face in the picture of you with the beautiful animal that you slaughtered for fun? It makes you look like an jerk. A big, dumb, wealthy jerk. And it’s not like this is the first trophy hunt that this guy has been on. He’s also shot a rhino and a leopard, among more traditional big game. The pictures of his kills are all over the internet. The dentist claims to not have known that the lion he shot was Cecil but, in all honesty, I’m not sure that I care. This kind of hunting is disgusting. Period.

Proponents of trophy hunts will argue that they bring valuable dollars into Africa, helping the economy and boosting local conservation efforts. In many cases, animals like lions are actually bred specifically to be hunted. The dollars earned from these so-called “canned” hunts are supposed to go to protecting the wildlife that is actually wild. There may be some truth to this but I can’t get around the idea that there is something very wrong with killing a large animal for the pure pleasure of it. Let’s not pretend that the people who are spending $50,000 (or more) to shoot a large carnivore are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts and their interest in conservation.

I will climb down from my soapbox now and tell you that the good news, if there is any, is that there are things you can do to make this situation better. It may be too late for Cecil, but maybe his death can help prevent other lions (and other critters) from being killed for the sole purpose of finding their way onto someone’s wall. Let’s put all this outrage to good use and do something about this situation.

Here’s what you can do:

Donate to WildCRU: The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University that had been studying Cecil since 2008. The folks at WildCRU are working hard to promote conservation of lions all across Africa and, as you can imagine, their mission is not cheap. Your donation to WildCRU will help them do this important work that will help protect more lions in the future.

Write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceLion populations in Africa may be dangerously low, but the United States government does not recognize lions as a threatened or endangered species. If lions were to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. would ban the import of pelts from trophy hunts, diminishing people’s interests in these types of hunts.

Donate to the African Wildlife FoundationLions aren’t the only animals that suffer from both the legal and illegal killing of wildlife in Africa. Rhinos, elephants, and other animals are also susceptible to poaching by various people for various reasons. The AWF works hard to stop the illegal poaching of all of these animals.

A lot of people are outraged about Cecil’s death but outrage without action is useless. If you are angry about what happened, please consider doing something about it.

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