Who doesn’t love seeing wildlife in its natural environment?!? It’s exhilarating for sure. How can you enjoy yourself while keeping the animals wild and undisturbed? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to photograph wildlife.
11 Tips to safely photograph wildlife
- View and photograph from established observation areas. Stay on the trail when hiking. If an animal approaches, back away in order to maintain a safe distance and give it the room it deserves.
- Use binoculars, a spotting scope and telephoto lens to view and photograph wildlife from a distance. This reduces stress on wildlife and reduces conflict between humans and animals.
- Remain alert to potential danger while viewing or taking pictures. Keep your eyes on the animal.
- Avoid direct eye contact with bears, even through a lens, because it may be interpreted as a challenge or threat.
- Keep your distance from young animals, nest and dens. Moms can get protective of their young or abandon dens if they feel threatened.
- Never sneak up on or surprise any animal, especially a bear. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, so back away if it happens accidentally.
- Never try to get an animal to move to a different location. Instead, give the animal the room to move where it would like. Remember you’re in its home.
- Allow other visitors to enjoy wildlife. Try to avoid blocking others’ views and be aware of the stress a crowd might cause to the animal.
- Watch other people in the area. Are they putting you in danger? Are they approaching the animal? How is it reacting to their presence?
- Never surround, crowd, chase or follow an animal. It may respond by charging.
- Don’t make sudden loud noises around wild animals.
Remember Professional Photographers Get Great Photos by:
- Using appropriate telephoto lenses
- By cropping their photos
- Photographing in controlled wildlife management areas with special access permits
- Being patient, practicing low-impact photography and devoting many years to getting desired photos
- Using captive and conditioned animals at zoos and game farms
Other Things to Consider
- Moose, elk and bison can and will charge if they feel threatened in any way, particularly the males. Momma’s can also be aggressive if they have young nearby.
- Moose, elk and bison will often give warning signs of their agitation including changing its stance and ear posture. If it begins stomping the ground or huffs, you are too close! Back away!
- Startled bears will often confront intruders by turning sideways to appear larger, make teeth clacking sounds, salivating, laying their ears back and slapping the ground with their paws. Take these as warnings for you to remove yourself from the area.
- Momma bears are very protective of their cubs. A startled black bear will often send her cubs up a tree while she stands guard at the bottom. Take this as an opportunity to leave without a conflict. Mother grizzly bears try to avoid people, but if you surprise one, she might bluff charge to remove the threat.
- Cougars (mountain lions, pumas) are especially secretive and elusive. They can jump 30 feet from a standstill and 20 feet up a cliffside. Keep in mind they often hide behind bushes, logs or rock outcroppings, and usually leave an area if they hear people approaching.
- If a bear stands on its hind legs, it is not necessarily being aggressive. It may simply be trying to see, hear and smell you better in order to identify what you are. Talk firmly and in a low-pitched voice while cautiously backing away.
- During extreme conditions such as droughts, thunderstorms and forest fires, all wildlife, especially bears and cougars, may become more aggressive and confrontational.
- Remember wildlife is often more aggressive during mating season. Learn the season for animals you are likely to encounter when out capturing photographs.