To feed or not to feed….
Now, how do one get to find those bears and Wolverines in Europe? In Siberia, Canada and Alaska they seem to be a lot more used to humans and especially during the salmon migration they are quite easy to find. Unfortunately this doesn’t work in Europe. Here the bears are a lot more shy and the chance of finding one in the wild are very slim. The best way of getting close enough for pictures is sitting in a hide with bait in front, like I did in Finland.
But this raises the question whether it’s a good thing to feed wild animals for pictures. In my opinion there are two ways of feeding wild animals for pictures. In the Netherlands we’ve had some problems with Red Foxes being fed by both photographers and other nature enthusiasts. They were fed with bread, french fries and other snacks. First of all this isn’t healthy for the foxes, and secondly they really changed their behaviour. At the moment, if you get a plastic bag and make some noise with it, certain foxes will come running towards you, expecting food. This unnatural behaviour has several drawbacks. Of course, Foxes are very opportunistic animals, that will seize every opportunity to get food (they are also seen plundering garbage bags in cities in certain countries). But in this case they could become a thread to humans. They could get aggressive to humans if they don’t get food and start to bite. This will result in the shooting of these animals. This already happened when a fox was so tame, it became a thread for traffic. Needless to say this should be avoided. And besides, as a photographer I like to photograph animals showing their natural behaviour, something that can’t be said for these foxes.
Another way of feeding animals is just to lure them, but not to give them so much food they will get dependent on it, or that they associate the food to humans. An example of this are the Red Deer on the Hoge Veluwe. These normally shy animals are being fed a little, but that is enough to attract them to a certain place. This makes them the most viewed and most photographed Red Deer of the Netherlands. Because of their predictability many people come there to see the animals (sometimes even over a hundred people). I think this is a very good way to show nature to the public. Normally most of these people won’t see any deer (and especially not during the rut). And as long as the feeding is done responsibly I don’t see any problem.
In my opinion the bears being fed can be places in the last category. It is done with natural food for the bears (fish), in a way that the bears don’t associate the food with humans (they still run away if someone makes a noise) and they aren’t being fed enough, so they still have to keep their own behaviour for finding their remaining food. This way photography and nature can go hand in hand and people get to enjoy animals which they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.