Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

Mid-May to Mid-June 2007

This is the bear that almost walked into
our cabin, and calmly sat behind one of
our hummingbird sets. He'd been conditioned
to people by raiding trash, and probably the
camps of illegals passing through the mountains.

Question of the Month

Why can't you feed a bear?

First off, we didn't feed a bear, but on our recent trip to southern Arizona for our high-speed flash hummingbird photography shoots, we were plagued by a black bear that repeatedly destroyed the lodge's feeders where we were staying. Eventually, to help out Mary and I would take down all of the hummingbird feeders each night, and replace them the following morning at around 5:30AM. Made for exhausting days, since we often were working late and 5:30AM came early.

I don't know where else the bear was visiting, but over a few week period we saw the bear several times, and we heard that other homes and lodges in the canyon were having problems, too. So much so that the bear, over time, apparently lost all fear of people. Several times, for example, we were awakened in the middle of the night because we heard the bear on our porch, trying to get into a refrigerator we had there. The refrig was locked, and was bear-proof, provided the bear didn't knock over the refrig. I'd get up, bang open the door, and yell and chase the bear. Over time, its retreat became more and more casual.

One day, at 1PM, after our group had lunch, the bear returned to our porch. Fortunately our cabin door was closed, so the bear didn't walk inside but instead contented itself on a box of mealworms we had for feeding the birds. One of our participants was helping to carry up the remains of our meal and literally almost walked into the bear. It jumped off the porch and walked behind our room where it simply sat down. Several of us followed, and photoed the bear which completely ignored us. Mary called Arizona's Game and Fish, a game officer came, and the bear was tranquilized and removed. We learned later that this bear had been a problem the previous summer and been removed. This was its second, and last offense.

All of us were very upset that the bear had to be destroyed, but I could just imagine if the bear had actually walked into our cabin, had the door been ajar or open as it often was. I can't imagine what may have happened if a family with young kids had been in our cabin, had the door ajar, and had the bear walked inside. Can you imagine if a kid walked in, closed the door behind him, and trapped the bear inside? Obviously, the bear had to go.

Somewhere along the line, however, someone, or many people, had fed the bear. It grew accustomed to humans and food. Worse still, when it first showed up in the canyon and caused some problems Game and Fish were not notified, and they couldn't trap the bear, or use techniques to discourage or frighten the bear. Instead, over time the bear just learned that people weren't a threat and the bear grew increasingly bold, culminating in the scene described above.

So, if you're in bear country, don't feed the bears! If you live in an area that occasionally gets bear problems, address the problem immediately, otherwise it will only be compounded. The Santa Rita's lost a beautiful bear last week, a tragedy that didn't have to be. Please don't compound that problem!



Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

Do You Need a
Big Printer?

Can a Wimberley Head be used with small lenses?

Is a Trip to Antarctica
Worth it?

 How many Flashes do you need to effectively illuminate hummingbirds?

 Film or Digital?
Why you should shoot film!

What is the best shutter speed for panning running mammals?

 What is Reality?
Adobe's powerful LIGHTROOM Program

 Is there an easy way to level a camera for panorama shots?

 Why is Yellowstone the best for wildlife photography in the US?

Apertures for Macro

 Why must you have
at least 2 digital backups

 Wildlife Models
Is there anything new
to shoot?

 Is the New Wimberley head worth having?

  What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Can you match the Histograms?
 How do I keep track of Digital Files?

  Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

What is DEC? 

How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day?  

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?

  Does the Visibledust cleaning system really work?

What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

How long will film be around? 

  The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

 What is the Difference?

 How do we meter White?

 How can you save your shoulders?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

How would you meter these images?

 What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

Which Mountain Park is better for wildlife - Denali or Torres del Paine?

What is the best Car Window Mount? 

  How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?

 What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?

 What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 Which binoculars do we just love to use?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?

 How Easy is Whale Photography?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?

What Film Lab do we use, and why? 

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites? 

How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

What is the Most Important thing you can do before a Workshop?

How did I shoot the gliding Sugar Glider?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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