Whether youíre out hiking in the backcountry or sightseeing from your car, having a chance encounter with wildlife is a magnificent and treasured moment. For many however, the experience is overpowering. They lose sight of the fact that the subject of their admiration is a wild creature.

Yes, sadly, Iíve seen some foolish human behavior over the years which resulted in tragic consequences to wildlife and humans. Therefore, itís imperative that you know how to view and photograph wildlife sensitively and responsibly in a low impact manner.

You will be rewarded with the most amazing experiences and others will learn from your fine example!

Be aware that the ecosystem you visit may be fragile, so tread gently and practice ďleave no traceĒ.

These practices promote the well-being of the location, subject and photographer. Every place, plant, and animal whether above or below water, is unique, and cumulative impacts occur over time. Therefore, one must always exercise good individual judgment. These principles will encourage all who participate in the enjoyment of nature to do so in a way that best promotes good stewardship of the resource.

ďThe subject and the habitat are more important than the photograph.Ē

PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL FIELD PRACTICES

1. First and foremost, view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and them. Respect their spatial needs. If the animal interrupts its behavior (resting, feeding, etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.

2. Never force an action. Be patient! The most beautiful photographs result from natural action. Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is Rare in your local area.

3. Never come between a parent and its offspring. Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites.

4. Never crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass wildlife. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative. Consider that you may be the 65th person to yell at that animal that day while itís attempting to tend to its young. If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate organizations or individuals.

5. Never feed or leave food (baiting) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.

6. Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, nesting, or caring for young.

7. Do not damage or remove any plant, life form or natural object. Do not tamper, disturb, alter or otherwise manipulate the natural environment, landscape, or objects within the environment in such a way that could lead to temporary or permanent defacement or destruction.

8. Acquaint yourself with and respect the behaviors and ecosystems of the wildlife you may encounter. By doing so, you will enrich your experience tremendously.

9. Keep in mind that you are intruding in the animal's world - you are its guest. Conduct your activity accordingly and leave whenever your host gives even the slightest hint that you are no longer welcome.

10. Use a lens of long enough focal length to avoid approaching the subject too closely.

11. Support the protection of important bird habitat.

12. Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

13. Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

14. Be a good role model, both as a photographer and a citizen -- educate others by your actions; enhance their understanding.

15. Learn patterns of animal behavior -- know when not to interfere with animals' life cycles.

16. Respect the routine needs of animals -- remember that others will attempt to photograph them too.

17. When out on the field in groups keep them to a size that limits impact on the environment.

18. Finally, Always Remember that the welfare of the subject and habitat are irrefutably more important than the photograph.