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The Truth About Baiting

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The Truth About Baiting
Professional wildlife photographer Daniel Dietrich writes an opinion piece on the dangers of baiting for the perfect shot and shows how he creates natural, ethical images of wild birds

After developing my first roll of film in the darkroom at age 13, I was hooked on photography. I have had a love for wild animals for as far as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my late teens when I started pointing a camera at them. With one semester left at university, I decided that taking a photo of a koala bear was more important than actually graduating. I spontaneously bought a ticket to Australia and spent the next eight months chasing the wild animals and visiting the wild places the incredible country had to...

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  1. I think, it is better to say only: baiting is not moral or good. Lot of arguments in the article are hypothetic with close to 0% probability, nor scientificaly based or valid for only some species, not all. I don’t think it is a good way how to motivate people to enjoy nature more ethicaly.

    • Thanks for the comment, Martin. While it is an opinion piece, there is truth and fact to many of the points I discuss. Baiting changes the behavior of animals. Owls become habituatied to humans that feed them. There are many cases of pet store mice being found to have diseases. My goal with the article was to have those that do use live mice or are considering doing so to consider the dangers, and to educate those that had no idea that the practice even happens.

    • I agree, using living bait is bad. I do not with the argument of habituation, with exception for baiting for a commercial hide or any periodic activity. Other activities can be more influencing. And the argument with the diseases is very manipulative. Do you have some study about diseases dangerous for owls ordinarily distributed by mice? I think this is more a moral question: what is influencing the animals in bad way and where is a line deviding good and bad approach to wildlife photography.

    • Finaly, Daniel, I think your article can be a very good opener for a discussion, what is more or less ethical in animal photography. And also how to teach publishers to ask for such pictures.

    • Thanks for your comments, Martin. I am glad you agree the article can be used as an opener for a discussion. The main goal of the article is to promote awareness.

      In my article I state that pet store mice may transmit diseases to an owl. I don’t know of any scientific study on the topic, nor do I think one will ever be done. But there are of course many examples of how humans handling animals can transmit diseases. If there is ANY chance of an owl becoming sick from eating a mouse that is not part of its natural diet, it seems the logical and ethical choice to not take that chance.

      As for habituation, we can simply agree to disagree. I believe that owls can easily be habituated to humans. This video alone provides plenty of evidence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HC3Tzl5M2Ok

      Thanks for the comments and the civil discussion on the topic Martin.

    • It is interesting, that all the habituation-videos with wild owls are with great gray owl only. Why? But as I see, it is pretty common way in north America and Scandinavia how to make owl photos. I have made a lot of owl pictures and the only reason of my success was my knowledge, my time spent in the wild. But I am doing research and conservation for an more elusive animal than owls are, so owls are something like a nice bonus for my photography hunger 🙂 Finaly, baiting used for already adapted owls can be better for owls in complex point of view than pushing all photographers to search for them in real wildlife and disturb them without any knowledge of their behaviour.

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