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I would just ask one question to the above quote. If you are so worried about the wildlife and helping it to survive the long winter that you are offering it food, why must you do it with a camera in hand? Would you not still get the same satisfaction just to offer the food and watch the owl take the mouse all the while just watching with no camera knowing you helped it find a meal? If one has a camera in hand and must take a photo then I would disagree to the motive of why you were offering...Show more →
This is exactly the point that people against baiting practice's are making.
Baiting to just get that "once in a life time shot" is wrong and furthermore it is done only for the satisfaction and enjoyment of the photogrpaher. No consideration is given to the Owl.
The "funny" thing is that people using bait sometimes begin presenting their "exploit" saying that the Owl was actively feeding which to the non-initiate means hunting. In these cases, the reader of such post can very well assume that it is natural behavior.
The "problem" is that Owl hunt for their food and these people have a difficult time understanding it. The Owl occupy a large territory and may just be perched in a area to rest, Of course, where ever the Owl happens to be perched, it may be seen hunting: that is instinctive. The real problem is that in a "circus athmosphere viewing" as soon as people find an Owl in one spot bait is thrown in to keep the owl there. Owl will concentrate on a food source location for extended periods of time while hunting, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO JUST ONE FIELD.. In normal circumstance, once satisfied, that bird will move elsewhere to perch and rest. They may well be back the next day and hunt the same field, but they will not jeapardize their food source by deplitting it in one long seating for weeks on end. Having an owl attracted to the very same field for weeks is un-natural. Having an Owl present in the exact same spot is obviously due to baiting and is deemed to be harmful. In those circumstances, we are not talking about feeding the Owl for its well being. We are talking about feedeing the Owl for the pleasure of having a subject to photograph and observe day in, day out. The obvious reason that the behavior of the photographer is an obstruction in the life of that Owl is that at one point, when people will have had their fill of photos, baiting will stop and the Owl will move on and resume normal hunting behavior. That is assuming that the Owl will not get stressed to the point of no return: So accustomed to people, attracted by vehicule activity, (the list goes on) that eventually the Owl will get harmed. I am not a biologist but, when I hear people justify baiting because the snow is too hard or too deep, I laugh. Most of my Owl photography is done in the worst conditions. Often the temperature is in the -20 to -30 degrees celcius with snow falling or on the ground. The Owls usually do find food naturally as long as the food is there to be hunted. If not, again they will move on.
This is the way it is for GGOs, NHOs where I am located. These birds do not have set migration paterns, meaning that they will not travel great seasonal distances. Their movement is mostly dictated by food supply.
Snowy Owls are seasonal migrants, but there again, their migration patern is highly dependant on food availability/supply: natural supply, that is. When northern areas lack food they will move into more southern regions.
Other factors may enter into Snowy Owl movement. Factors such successful reproduction / nesting in Artic regions. The bigger the Owls population moving south in the winter, the more food is needed to sustain the populations. When food supply runs out, their survival instinct will drive them south again. Life has cycles, for birds of preys as well as their prey. Often, the cycles do not match and the predator will just not perch somewhere waiting to die. They will do what ever it takes to survive.
Again, I am not a biologist but what I encourage anyone to do is "study" your subject as much as possible in order to have respect for said subject. Education is key to respect for your subject and the environment they live in.
I do not understand people and larger outfits who give workshops on Owl photography using bait to get once in life time shots to their clients. Making a profit is all that counts. I see nothing educating in the practice. Education for the technical aspect of photography, yes, maybe. Ethical education, no. The only lesson to be learn is that it is ok to bait for fast results. It is like getting a quicky. The problem is that their clients get quickies time and time again. It is adictive and really, who needs to work hard for satifaction when it can be had repeatidely using a lab mouse. Again, anyone sensible to the issue will find it deemed to be unethical. Whether through, the internet, worshops, people meeting in the field, at events, etc, there is always something to learn, something to discuss, a way for oneself to get educated and a way for oneself to educate. All is based on respect. What we like is nature so respect it.
Most of the well know and honest photographers will have enough "balls" to practice their craft ethically. Their silence in the matter is not an approval of the practice. The weekend warrior who is looking for that once in a life time shot.should learn from honest sources. Anyone practicing un-ethically should be challenged, whether he/she is a friend, a celebrity or what ever,
I do realize that the decision is not black or white. Bait if you think that getting the shot is going to save your live, not your reputation or ego, But next time you have the opportunity, think twice and weigh the concequences, Educate yourself, be aware, and use respect.