There is a process I go through when I’m getting ready for a photo trip.  I’m about 5 weeks out from the beginning of a mega trip and the process has begun.  I’ve been scouring the web looking at images, reading blogs, basically getting my hands on everything I can find about the areas I’m headed to.  I hate the thought of showing up somewhere with cameras and having to totally wing it.

Around 6 years ago when I was researching a trip to Yellowstone I came across a bulletin board/chat page about Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  It’s a great resource and I always start checking it a couple of times every day when I’m close to a Yellowstone trip.  Today I came across this post: (condensed for content)

Now just have to post this after some of the actions of some of the local photographers here in Jackson Hole and the Grizzlies #399 and #610. This is not everyone but just a clic of local photographers here in Jackson Hole… When the rangers are not around, the photographers will…. harass the wildlife for that prize photograph. Yesterday when both of the Grizzlies (#399 and #610) were out, these photographers were pressing their luck and getting too close to the bears with being only like 15 to 20 feet away. At one point a car drove up to only like 10 feet away and started to photograph the bears thru the sun roof. Again with only like 10 feet away! The grizzlies were really agitated with the Grizzly Mother giving a Paw swipt towards the photographers and the cars. This occurred up in GTNP yesterday. 

People Please Respect the Grizzlies and Give Them their Space!!! Now it is NOT worth that one special prize photograph for the Grizzlies safety and well being come first! “

The image at the top of this blog is of Grizzly #399 and her yearling cubs from 2007.  I spent one of the most delightful afternoons of my photographic career observing and photographing these wonderful creatures.  I was back in the park in 2010 but didn’t see #399 though I continued to read and hear of her on the various blogs and bulletin boards.  I feel like I owe her something for the enjoyment I got watching her and her family so I was really disturbed when I read the post above.

We, as wildlife photographers, have a responsibility to our subjects.  We can not ethically take the attitude of “anything to get the shot.”  In this case the end does not justify the means.  I understand that lots of folks make a living by selling their images and there is great pressure to produce that “special” shot.  That, however, does not give one license to do whatever it takes.

If you’ve spent any time at all in the field observing or photographing wild creatures you have probably studied their movements and habits somewhat to increase your rate of success.  Along with that comes the ability to realize when an animal is showing signs of stress.  When we see these signs it’s incumbent on us to back off….give the animal their space.  If the post is true and professional shooters are chasing the bears in order to get shots of a running grizzly, that is simply not acceptable and I’m hoping that none of my photographer friends from that area are the ones being mentioned.

So here’s fair warning:  I’ll be in the Park around June 8th or 9th and will be looking for #399 and/or #610 and I’m sure there will be some pro shooters around.  Please don’t let me see the behavior referenced above.  If you do you can be certain that 2 things will happen.  First, while you’re chasing and shooting the bears I will be recording images of you chasing and shooting the bears along with the license plate on your vehicle for identification to the local authorities and rest assured you will be reported.  Secondly, I’m not an intimidating guy by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m 60 years old, overweight, and out of shape.  Knowing that, I will never engage anyone in fisticuffs or anything physical like that but be secure in the knowledge that I’m going to be all up in your grill letting you know what a bleeping moron you are.

All the old signs say “Don’t Feed The Bears.”  I say “Don’t Stress The Bears.”  Let them be bears and let the rest of us enjoy them as well.  Is it really worth it to get the shot?  Really?