Request for opinions on harassment citation

Discussion in 'Nature' started by djuna_ivereigh, Mar 3, 1998.

  1. While photographing elephant seals at San Simeon, a new a growing colony just south of Big Sur, CA, I had a run-in with some US Fish and Wildlife officials that have recently begun patrols of that area. The enforcement officials (packing guns and dressed in bullet proof vests) waved me off the beach, marched me to my car, collected various numbers and filed a report on my activities, which they cited as marine mammal harassment, according to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary violations.

    <p>

    The San Simeon site is in a rather unpopulated area, and in the past has been free of the tourism pressure felt by, say, the Ano Nuevo colony, which limits visitors during the breeding season by contract with Bass ticket outlets. In discussing the issue with Roy Torres of the National Marine Fisheries Service, who is now handling the case, I see that he has been frustrated by a lot of disrespect for the seals. For instance, people will intimidate seals and interfere with their behavior by walking right up to them, tossing sticks to their dogs, etc. Surfers also frequent the same surf zone as many seals. The seals, who are fasting during the beach haul-out (several months) must conserve energy. They are also quite helpless on the beach, and know it, so can be easily frightened.

    <p>

    Oddly, the incidents I have mentioned have not resulted in citations. However, my photographic efforts have. Perhaps because my activities were directly related to the elephant seal colony, not incidental to it? Perhaps because nature photographers, once seen as proponents of the world they document are now viewed as it abusers? I don't know...

    <p>

    In my defense, I have written the following letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service prosecutor, who will decide if my case merits further attention. NMFS officials tell me this would be treated as a civil case, which I don't really understand since they would be charging me with harassment, a particular Marine Sanctuary violation. The fine may run up to $100,000, though NMFS officials reassure me this is "unlikely".

    <p>

    For background information, the elephant seal population here in California is rapidly booming; frequent public encounters are rapidly becoming inevitable. The Northern elephant seal has never been a CITES-listed species. The only suggested violation is harassment, as I cite below from the National Marine Sanctuary regulations.

    <p>

    I know this is longish, but I would *very sincerely appreciate* any and all opinions on this issue. Contributions to my legal defense fund are also welcome!!

    <p>



    <p>

    18 February, 1998

    <p>

    Dear NMFS Prosecutor,

    <p>

    I've learned some lessons in the course of my discussions with NMFS
    agent Roy Torres concerning the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony and
    the citation for my actions there in November. I plan to take these
    lessons to heart. However, I firmly believe that my activities at
    Piedras Blancas were not in violation of of MBNMS regulations, in either
    spirit or letter. I am prepared to defend my actions in court, before a
    jury, should that eventually become necessary.

    <p>

    The saddest lesson I've learned is that Piedras Blancas is now a heavily
    impacted site, besieged by tourbuses and the like. I understand that
    even if I behave responsibly and respectfully in the company of elephant
    seals, such behavior in the company of humans may be misinterpreted, and
    perhaps unfaithfully imitated, leading to endangerment of humans and/or
    seals.

    <p>

    I empathize with the difficulties faced by the federal agencies charged
    with managing this situation. However, I cannot be reprimanded
    for the potential impact of my behavior on other people. The only
    question is: did I, personally, according to NMS regulations, "harass,
    hunt, capture, kill, collect or injure" elephant seals at Piedras
    Blancas? To these charges, I will plead 'not guilty', and argue that my
    presence at Piedras Blancas did not alter the natural behavior of the
    elephant seals, nor cause the elephant seals distress.

    <p>

    As a professional nature photographer, and member of the North American
    Association of Nature Photographers, I follow a strong ethical code.
    Basically, this ethic boils down to: the photographic subject is far
    more important than the photograph, itself. This is especially true in
    the case of wildlife. When I photograph animals, I do everything I can
    to ensure those animals' safety, well-being, and freedom to carry out
    their natural behavior. In fact, it is natural behavior, itself, that I
    wish to celebrate, document, and share with other people. There is
    nothing alluring about a photograph of an animal staring fearfully, like
    a deer caught in headlights, straight into the camera.

    <p>

    The only way to truly know what is natural behavior is to observe
    natural behavior before approaching an animal. In situations where I
    will be working in open sight of animals, such as at Piedras Blancas, an
    observation period also allows animals to grow comfortable with my
    presence.

    <p>

    I've spent time watching elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, Ano Nuevo,
    and in the Channel Islands, where I regularly work as part of the
    Volunteer In Parks program. For two days before venturing onto the beach
    at Piedras Blancas, I sat along the perimeter of the beach, watching. I
    sat at beach level, because elephant seals are wary of anything taller,
    or higher, than they are. I wore the same clothes day-to-day in hopes
    that the seals would come to realize that I, personally, was not a
    threat. By the third day, I was confident I was not a perceived threat
    after I'd crawled toward a sleeping bull to photograph him. I lay twenty
    feet from the bull for several minutes before he awoke to throw sand
    over his body. Without even lifting his head, he gave me a once-over,
    perhaps righfully deducing I weighed about 1/25 of what he did, and had
    a pitifully tiny nose. He immediately returned to the primary activity
    of elephants seals during the breeding season: sleep.

    <p>

    Sleep, in fact, was principally what I watched and photographed at
    Piedras Blancas. During those six hours a day when the seals weren't
    sleeping, I watched bulls rear up and roar, letting everyone know they
    were the biggest and baddest on the beach. At least among those who
    weren't sleeping and seemed to care. Other common activities included
    scratching, play fighting, and griping about so many other seals
    roaring, scratching, play fighting and griping when they were just
    trying to get some sleep.

    <p>

    Although the oldest bull elephant seals are reknown for their bloody
    rows, serious combat will often be avoided in favor of ritualized
    displays of dominance. These displays center around a demonstration of
    size, specifically height, and of sound, by means of resounding
    vocalizations. Over three days at Piedras Blancas, I watched the
    following drama repeated time and again: One bull rears up and
    vocalizes, challenging all who will listen. The dominant bull may rise
    to the challenge by answering the vocalizations. If the dominant bull
    feels particularly ornery and cantankerous, he might begin the slow,
    arduous process of humping his way toward his challenger. Sometimes,
    even the beginning of an approach is enough to quiet a submissive bull.
    Other times, over the course of half an hour (with many mutual rest
    stops), the alpha bull chases his challenger all the way down the beach.
    Usually this ends with the the submissive bull eluding the dominant bull
    in the surf zone. Two minutes later, the submissive bull reappears back
    where the chase began and ingratiates himself among the harem from which
    he has distracted the alpha bull. A clever strategy, indeed.

    <p>

    The scene witnessed by the the USFWS agent developed as follows: A
    dominant bull on the south end of the beach began vocalizing. A large
    (dominant?) bull on the north end of the beach, near where I was
    sitting, reared up, answered the call and began moving toward the surf
    zone. I realized that if this bull continued on his course, he would
    soon be in an opportune position for photography. I could approach
    without disturbing other seals and meet the bull near the surf zone,
    where he would have ready access to safety, should he feel that
    necessary.

    <p>

    By belly-crawling along a widely arcing course that was unoccupied by
    seals, I did, in fact, reach the surf zone without other seals even
    becoming aware of my presence. I moved slowly with frequent rest stops,
    as elephant seals do. I kept my body, and especially my head, low and
    avoided direct eye contact with the bull, so as not to challenge his
    authority. Encountering the bull near the edge of the surf, I captured
    on film his side of an ongoing conversation with the southern bull.

    <p>

    As I turned slightly to leave, the bull turned toward me and continued
    vocalizing. He seemed to call attention to the fact that I was on the
    retreat, and that he was, in fact, bigger and badder than anyone on that
    end of the beach. I lowered my head and looked away, in a submissive
    stance, at which point I saw the USFWS agent standing near the edge of
    the bluff (a position and area that I specifically avoid). I
    belly-crawled back to greet her.

    <p>

    To summarize my activities, I did not elicit aggressive behavior from
    the bull seal. Rather, I approached the bull because he was exhibiting
    aggressive behavior that I wished to photograph. I approached with a
    submissive posture so that the bull could effectively exert a visual
    display of dominance without the need for physical attack.

    <p>

    I would hope that the benefits of photography are clear to all agencies
    that manage the National Marine Sanctuaries. The lead story of this
    month's National Geographic, featuring wildlife of the Sanctuary system,
    is a great example of those benefits. Just consider to what degree
    public support of the MBNMS has been influenced by professional
    photographs of features and activities that few people will ever witness
    first-hand. I am proud to have personal, positive influences on public
    opinion of protected lands by providing free use of my images to
    Carlsbad Caverns, Sequoia, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Channel Islands
    National Parks. Many federal land managers are, in fact, grateful for
    responsible, professional-quality documentation of the resources they
    look after.

    <p>

    As I stated earlier, I am now more sensitive to the cumulative impacts
    of tourism on the Piedras Blancas colony, and to the possible effects of
    my activities on other visitors. To that extent, this citation has done
    its service by influencing my outlook and future behavior at Piedras
    Blancas. I will refuse, however, to submit to punitive damages for my
    personal activities without suitable interpretation by the judicial
    system. I am confident that, if need be, my actions would be found
    innocent amongst a jury of my peers.

    <p>

    Sincerely,
    Djuna Ivereigh
     
  2. Photographers are very visible, and are hated by a subset of NP, USF&W, and similar folks. Others have just the opposite view. Unfortunately, service in the fed agencies has become much more enforcement-oriented, due mostly to activities by real criminals visited upon cars, archeological sites, public buildings, etc etc. Often those who serve become avid enforcers of whatever they view as a violation of law. Often the enforcement folks have ZERO knowledge of wildlife, and can't discriminate between responsible action and the opposite. More and more, the agencies hire cops, not outdoor professionals. Can't blame 'em, I've witnessed crime myself in such areas.

    <p>

    I've approached harbor seals on my butt over a lengthy period of time, and a lot of other wildlife in similar fashion. The problem is the general public doesn't know you didn't just walk up to the critters. The gendarmes don't know either, and even when they do, they realize you are setting a "bad example", not because of YOUR action, but because of how others will interpret that action. You are, in a sense, held responsible for how others might interpret your acts. Not likely to hold up to Supreme Court review, but good luck getting that far :)

    <p>

    Sad but true.

    <p>

    One would hope an enforcement type would observe what the seals were doing while you were there. Were they relaxed and calm? That would indicate that you've put in your time allowing them to become comfortable with you. On the other hand, if they're scooting around or otherwise acting nervous, you are harassing them.

    <p>

    The problem is that for simplicity's sake, harassment is defined in real-estate terms, not behavioral terms. There's merit to this, i.e. enforcement people don't have to be expert behavioralists. Given that USF&W folks still have to fit into a system where advancement generally means moving to a new refuge/ecosystem, you can see why they take that approach.

    <p>

    NANPA has been addressing this tension between the USF&W and NPS and professional photographers. Go read about it. The NPS in particular acknowledges past abuses by their employees by providing a statement making it clear that professional nature photographers should not be hassled if they're in places open to the public (there are cases where Rangers insist professional photography's not allowed even though the public can visit on open trails), and cooperation should be given to those needing special permits just as is given to others.
     
  3. Wow! Don's a fast reader (and writer!) I just posted the original message 10 minutes ago!

    <p>

    Interesting comment this: "The problem is that for simplicity's sake, harassment is defined in real-estate terms, not behavioral terms. There's merit to this, i.e. enforcement people don't have to be
    expert behavioralists." Of course, harassment is legally defined as modification of behavior (among other things). There's nothing in the MBNMS regs that says anything about how close you can be. (Though respect, common sense and the Northern Elephant Seal Closure Law suggest no closer than 20 feet, a distance I maintained.)

    <p>

    Yes, I had the impression the enforcement officials I encountered had far more experience with harassment of humans than with harassment of elephant seals. As I say, the bull I approached was aggressively vocalizing before I approached. And he continued to vocalize as I was hauled off the beach. Other seals slept through the whole ordeal.

    <p>

    I'm familiar with recent understandings reached between NANPA and the NPS and NWR system. But Roy Torres, in charge of enforcement of wildlife issues at the MBNMS, has never heard of NANPA, nor it seems the concept photographuc ethics. Has anyone heard of such issues discussed within the the NMS system before?

    <p>

    Thanks,
    Djuna

    <p>

    Is anyone aware of any precedent for
     
  4. I'm not familiar with NMS regs, honestly. But in many refuges and other places very strict rules are in place, which if strictly followed make decent photography impossible. I've always assumed overly strict rules like this are in place to make life simple for the enforcement folks. If you know what you're doing, most won't bother you even if you're in technical violation. But that big buffer zone gives them an easy tool to bust down idiots without having to make subjective decisions regarding animal behavior. A 20 foot approach rule for elephant seals is more than reasonable, and if you didn't violate that and if you took the care you describe in approaching and photographing the seal, the enforcment person shouldn't've ticketed you.

    <p>

    This doesn't mean you'll win, though...

    <p>

    The officer in charge of enforcement (Roy Torres) certainly reports to the Sanctuary Manager, no? (I assume there is one?) Perhaps this person is who you should talk to. And perhaps NANPA needs to get to work on the NMS folks. It seems that a unilateral decision on the part of enforcement folks to enforce restrictions which aren't in place is just plain wrong.

    <p>

    Many enforcement folks like the power that comes with the job. At Malheur NWR, in SE Oregon, flooding eroded out archeaological artifacts. Pot hunting became a problem. An enforcement officer was added to staff. He spent most of his time harassing birders rather than chasing pothunters, and in getting many areas which had been open to the public for decades closed to birding.

    <p>

    This is one reason I like lower-profile refuges, where enforcement is usually handled by wildlife bios who want the slight increase in pay that comes with qualification for enforcement. They're generally very reasonable.
     
  5. I've photographed at that elephant seal site (only from the cliff, not on the beach), and I have to admit that my first thought in reading your post was relief that someone is actually out there keeping a watch on potential harassment of the seals. When I was there, I had to stop a couple people from throwing stones at a sleeping seal--it was their way of determining whether the seal was alive or dead. While it certainly sounds as if you took precautions not to harass the animals, I don't know how to get around the fact that people who know nothing of wildlife ethics will see you on the beach and think they too can climb down for a few shots. Don't we have to consider the effect our example will have on other people's behaviors toward animals as well as considering how our own actions directly affect animals? Shouldn't this consideration be folded into our own codes of ethics?
     
  6. I agree with JE with the setting of examples and with others that may follow.

    <p>

    Also, you seemed to take great precautions in your approach of the animals, stretching over a number of days. It would seem to me that a phone call to some of the people ahead of time informing them of your intentions and with an explanation of your approach to photographing the animals might have eliminated some of the troubles that you are currently in.

    <p>

    Without hearing the other side of the story I will with hold judgement on your specific case.
     
  7. I love the opportunity to photograph wild animals in their natural habitats. However, we all know that human presence affects animals. While the regulations may say 20ft. is an appropriate distance, or that one can deduce comfort levels by waiting for a negative reaction from an animal, is this really the best way to decide how we limit our behavior? Tolerance of humans does not mean an animal is not in some way negatively impacted by our presence. To even have an animal or group become conditioned to our presence is not something we should be after. By using the response of the animal as a determinant of proper behavior we push them to their limit of tolerance. By the time you see a changed behavior, its already too late. That your presence is even known may in some unknown way to you affect the animal or group in a negative way. Some animals respond more sensitively, others do not.
    My biggest problem with what your actions were is that you were photographing a large animal with a very close proximity to you. Why weren't you using an appropriate length of lens to keep you 100 feet or more away? To wait for an animal to approach you as it pursues its own course of behavior still leads to aberrant animal behavior when you become an object to be adjusted to as the animal gets closer. I find intention in your actions of placing yourself in a path of behavior you expected to be forthcoming. I have seen this "corralling"
    effect by boats in Hawaii when they look for pods of Humpbacks, race ahead of the group and then wait, totally within the legal framework, but still affecting the animals as they approach. Imagine not one boat but many. The pod then has to make course adjustments, or change activity to "deal" with our presence.The same thing occurs in Kenya, with 350,000 tourists/year riding Landrovers over the countryside, looking for animal activity to pursue. Humans are disruptive not because of huge overt aggressive activities on our part, but just in the sheer number of repeated contacts with the animals, each time creating some type of unnatural response. It is the cumulative affect to worry about. Many times we cannot be the judge of that in the few minutes or hours we spend evaluating our own presence.
    Finally, were you aware of the officer or that the beach is patrolled? Did you approach and discuss your photo intentions with the officer and discuss appropriate behaviors? That simple act can give them a sense of the consideration you say you have in your photographic activities. I would continue, but would instead like to leave the following thought. "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare",a 17th century quote. To do excellent wildlife photography is not just decided by the image you capture, but how you achieved it. I would rather work very hard at not affecting the wildlife I am privileged to see and possibly not "get the great shot", than to compromise their lives. Only you and I as individuals know in our heart how well we do that. Regulations are for those who don't know any better, and have to be told what is minimally appropriate.
     
  8. When I see good nature images, my first reaction is the natural good feeling that comes with looking at anything beautiful. My second reaction is generally "why can't they leave the animals alone." This latter sense has been increased as I have come to learn just how so many excellent nature images are captured. Frankly, I would rather look at photos of captive animals from zoos, than some of the contrived images that are obtained by intruding on the natural habitat in the wild.

    <p>

    Do all humans really have to see everything in nature via film? I suppose it is a valuable service to raise public consciousness when a corporation is getting ready to rape a natural resource, but is it also a valuable service when a nature photographer just wants to get images that haven't yet had their market saturated?

    <p>

    In physics we know that the mere act of observing a particle alters its behavior. I suspect that this is true for more than particles.
     
  9. Many thanks for all responses! This is a very gray area that I, admittedly, have mixed feelings about. To clarify a few issues...

    <p>

    There was no one else present (to influence) while I was photographing. And while I have been there in the past (on weekdays) I have seen only very few people visit the colony. I have never personally seen any tourbuses, surfers, people throwing sticks for their dogs, or stones at the seals(!).

    <p>

    I was, and still am, senstive to the potential impact of my behavior on other people. However, the frequency with which other people visit, and so the cumulative impact of some of these less responsible encounters was news to me.

    <p>

    I do not object, per se, to enforcement (although I would prefer the word guidance) at San Simeon. In fact, it seems quite necessary, given the circumstances. I'm sure that if the USF&W official that cited me (BTW, she came upon me, I had not seen her there earlier) had educated me about the *general* problem, I would have come away with the same broadened outlook I have now, minus the legal hassle and general decline in respect for USF&W personnel. Rather, she was confrontational.

    <p>

    As an aside, I might mention that rangers at Channel Islands NP, charged with enforcing NMS game regulations, have found that their efforts are generally more effective when they approach on kayak, in kayaking gear, rather than on powerboat, wearing police regalia. A friendly, educational approach seems to elicit more honesty and overall empathy with the cause of conservation.

    <p>

    Roy Torres, thankfully, was not confrontational on a fact-finding mission with me about a month later. I explained my behavior, and asked, in so many words, What was the crime in that? All he could cite was the behavior of other people that he had personally encountered at San Simeon and had discussions with. In general, this education made me more sympathetic with the difficulties faced by him and the San Simeon colony. But I also feel that I am effectively being punished for the crimes of other people.

    <p>

    By the way, I carried a single 80-200 lens onto the beach. I had the option to carry a 300, but preferred the flexibilty of a zoom to limit my need for movement if I wanted to switch between environmental and tight shots.
     
  10. Since as nature photographers, we are not among the idiots throwing rocks at wildlife, we can all agree that certain types of behavior are reprehensible. Not all photographers, however, even professional ones, are immune from distubing behavior (such as baiting). Having said all that, I think that the enviro-cultists have intimidated everyone into thinking that mere human presence on earth is enough to disturb all wildlife! Since Djuna was (by his account) behaving responsibly, there is very little reason to think that his actions would have any impact whatsoever on the elephant seals, whose day to day existence is, after all, much more dangerous and risky than simply submitting to being photographed.

    <p>

    As a compromise, I would guess that photogs will have to invest in longer lenses and/or be more creative than simply crawling up to their subjects in similar cases. I do not condone the SWAT-team mentality of many government agencies (I read recently the percentage of all government employees who now carry firearms; I forget the number, but it is scary!), but it is not that different than commuting to work everyday and seeing the police stop not the aggressive morons who dangerously weave in and out of traffic, but the guy going 9 miles over the speed limit.

    <p>

    I sincerely wish Djuna luck!

    <p>

    Mitch McConnell
     
  11. I can't comment on the incident, since I wasn't there. You have to see the whole situation to decide if there was harrasment or not. I don't know how close the approach was (I think there is a defined limit for marine mammals). I wouldn't have done it myself for a number of reasons, not the least of which is giving other people around (who don't know the risks or seal behavior) the idea that it was generally acceptable behavior. In fact I often avoid behavior which I think might set a "bad example" in public, even if I think it wouldn't case stress to an animal if I did it. One person doing something maybe OK. 10 people trying to imitate that action might be anything but OK.
    However, while I'm sorry for Djuna, who seemed to be trying not to do harm, I'm absolutely delighted that some control over the behavior of the pulic is being excercised. I was at the same beach several years ago. I came as close as I ever have to being involved in a fist fight with an a**hole who was thowing dirt at seal pups to make them "do something". He backed off eventually, but I wish there had been some sort of state official present. Here is his smiling face. I thought I'd get a record shot in case of later trouble. If you ever see him, throw some dirt on him for me!
    [​IMG]
     
  12. BTW, Djuna is a 'she'. ;)
     
  13. It's too bad zealousness is the only way to preservation.Apparently,tripods are starting to scar the walls of the slot canyons along the utah-az border.Don't be surprised to see controls put in place there.
     
  14. Charles Heston is a seal harasser??? What is the world coming to?
     
  15. "Planet of the Seals", now there's a movie I'd go to see. It wasn't
    him though...
     
  16. Your situation reminds me of an incident that happened to me a couple of years ago in Yellowstone. In Yellowstone it is illegal to get within 75 feet of most animals. And this certainly makes good sense as bison, elk, can be quite unpredictable. I was photographing a trumpeter swan on a small pond with my 500mm . I was about 100 feet away and sitting on the side of the pond about 20 feet from the edge of the pond as it was muddy. In a short time, the trumpeter swam over to me and got up on shore and walked to within 25 feet of me and started to preen itself. It got close enough that the 500 couldn't focus on it. As a result, I just sat quietly and enjoyed the show. After a short time a ranger drove up yelled at me and told me to get up to the road where he proceeded to read me the riot act. He told me I was harrassing the swan and that I could be fined. I politely explained that I had jsut been sitting there and that the swan had come up to me. He said it didin't make any difference. By staying there, I was giving other people the idea that it was OK to get close. I think this gets to the crux of the matter - it wasn't that I was bothering the trumpeter, it was that other people would see me close to it and think it was OK to just walk up to it or any other animal. Of course they wouldn't know that the swan had moved up close to me. Now I'm no animal expert, but I would like to think my actions were not bothering the swan, like your actions were not bothering the seals. However someone coming on the scene could easily think otherwise. There are no easy answers.
     
  17. Just to clarify.. The NPS regulation reads you can not approach any closer than 75 feet, not get within 75 feet. Most rangers will interpet this as "get within" however. I had a similar incident happen to me also in Yellowstone and told the enforcement agent that the regulation is approach, we discussed it and he got the regulation and double checked it and then said I was right. The animal was an immature Great Blue Heron that was using the photographers as a corral to herd voles to feed on. The agent was in his first year on the job and I was very surprised he took the time to check. One of the problems as noted either in this thread or the similar one is within the enforcement community there is a negative attitude toward photographers with big glass. Most of the time trying to rationally discuss issues with a lot of enforcement types is a waste of time. If they have come from the biologist side they will listen but there are fewer and fewer of those.
     
  18. Big glass, a huge tripod and an F5 give you no more rights any any dumb tourist with a P&S and they make you a lot more visible. They also mark you as someone who probably wants to get close to wildlife. They also mark you as someone who might take extra risks to get those "unique" shots. After all you're carrying $10,000 in equipment and there's a good chance that your next meal depends on you getting those "unique" images. Sure you'll bend the regs a bit.
    You can argue all you want about the semantics of "approach" and "get within", but some of the time you will lose. The NPS probably don't want tourists within 75ft of the animals. Clearly it can lead to problems. I bet if they had a chance to rewrite the regulations, they'd now use "get within".
    Now we all know that it's fine for you and me to be closer than 75ft of the animals, but do you want the rest of the tourists in there with you?
     
  19. I dont want to turn this into a typical usenet back and forth peeing contest. I did not say that it was all right for me be closer than 75 ft. I simply pointed out what the reg actually stated. My statement also showed where the bird was smart enough to use humans to assist in gathering its meal. Here was a clear case of an animal approaching humans. After this was pointed out the ranger was quite amused at the birds use of people. Clearly this is not a usual case and demonstrates that there are a lot of gray areas when interacting with wildlife and their interaction with humans.

    <p>

    Do I as an amateur (or even professional) wildlife photographer want the rest of the tourists in there with me? Kind of a rhetorical question.. Most of the photographers that I shoot with know and understand the regulations a lot better than the average tourist. We also try to make the average tourist aware of what the regulations are. Much as Bob did with the sand throwing incident. A lot of the time the response is "Why dont you mind your own business!", as Bobs photo shows. Yes, there are times when my and others big glass will influence actions of other people. How much responsibility for that should I take upon myself particularly when what I am doing is not violating the regulations or a reasonable set of ethics?
     
  20. I will comment on the "get within 75 feet of animals" part. How do the park guys define animals? You cannot visit Yellowstone without being within 75 feet of animals anywhere. Just another way to make sure everyone is wrong and can be cited at will if the wrong park ranger is jolly on the spot. That said, most park types I know are just fine. It is that small minority that makes it miserable for the rest of us, just as a small minority of jackasses with big glass screw it up for us in the field.
     
  21. Frank - I was just showing that you can't have it both ways. You
    can't have one set of rules for the tourons and one for the
    "photographers". Now you could have different sets of rules
    (e.g. Denali), but that doesn't even sit well with most photographers
    (i.e. the ones without the permits!). Unless we (as "serious"
    nature photographers) consider ourselves
    a class apart, we should act in a way which we would consider to be appropriate for the typical touron, who has just
    stepped off the bus. Acting any other way will sooner or later lead
    to trouble.
     
  22. Agreed, we cant have it both ways. What I was very poorly attempting to show was there is no one correct answer. In the case of a Bison I dont want the critter within 75 feet. Doesnt matter if it approaches me or not. If I am sitting quietly and a coyote approaches closer than 75 feet, do I move back or burn film?

    <p>

    Agreed also as serious nature photographers we should act in a way that is more than appropriate for the average touron. But this is my personal dilemma, how do I define this in hard guidelines? I dont think there are. There can be some generalities but this is best defined as "situational ethics", it all depends. In another thread Hans Buchholdt said "Just know what the rules are, and use common sense in applying them". What I define as common sense may not be the same as Bobs sand thrower. However, these kind of threads are good for all of us especially if they cause us to sit back and reflect on what is being said. Particularly in nature photography where a lot of time we are very visible especially with big glass.
     
  23. Hi Djuna,

    <p>

    Long ago, in a lifetime far far away, I used to be a cop.

    <p>

    I have a question you might pose at an opportine time: Why didn't the ET (Enforcement Type) call to you come off the beach instead of going out on the beach herself, thereby increasing the "harassment?" Either humans BEING there is harmful or it's not. So, which is it.

    <p>

    Now an observation. You need to be aware of the "I'm not always right, but I'm never wrong" factor. So try not to appear that you think you know more than they do, especially when you do. You were careful to leave the, er, bull an out; might work on other kinds of bulls, too. And let the ET know very clearly that you are not challenging their right to enforce; then they can choose not to.

    <p>

    Cheers and God bless,

    <p>

    Bill Smith
     
  24. This seems to be clearly another case of an enforcement officer having a bad day with far too little information on hand, less experience and too much authority.

    <p>

    1) You say you were never within 20 feet of the animal?

    <p>

    This eliminates their statutory real-estate grounds for a charge.

    <p>

    2) No disruption of behavior?

    <p>

    This can be a he said, she said issue -- without a witness or video tape it is a non-starter for the prosecution. At any rate you can produce evidence that you took the time to acclimate the animals to you without disrupting their behavior in the form of earlier photos and you can explain to the judge with the photos what the various behaviors really mean.

    <p>

    3) This was an armed USFWS enforcement officer? Demanded identification without charging with a crime? Did the officer at any time initiate physical contact with you? (grab your arm etc.?)

    <p>

    If the answer to all of the above is yes you should file armed battery charges against the officer. If abusive language was used by the officer whilst under arms it is armed assult.

    <p>

    4) You were charged with harassment -- under statutory law or under refuge regulations?

    <p>

    If regulations they MUST be posted at refuge access points. Kiosks etc. is what is meant here.

    <p>

    5) Comments were made regarding by the officer about the example you set for others?

    <p>

    If this is true then you can point to this as evidence of prejudice on the officer's part. You cannot be harrassed, hasseled, charged or even spoken to sharply because of the actions of others. So sad, too bad, if this happened and is in the officer's report or testimony you have grounds for a harassment lawsuit (criminal and civil -- she was armed!).

    <p>


    Example:

    <p>

    I had a run in with a Park Stranger (Stupid Ranger) in Blue Springs State Park in Florida a few years ago -- we went swimming in the approved swimming area during open hours and a couple of Manatee wanted to say hi to us in the worst way. we went upstream, downstream and to either bank -- they thought it was a great game and followed us (or tried to get there first). This Stranger on the bank started yelling at us and got downright abusive -- when I got out and enquired as to his problem he threatened me with a ticket. I simply went up to the food kiosk, dropped a quarter in the phone, and requested the Park Superintendent stop by at his earliest convenience within the next 10 minutes, after that time I explained there would be a call to the State Police about Assult and Battery by a park Stranger and that charges would be filed.

    <p>

    In 5 minutes the Assistant Superintendent was there, spoke with me, a couple of other witnesses and the Stranger. In 15 minutes the Stranger was diligently picking up cigarette buts in the picnic area.

    <p>

    Federal and State law covers Manatee Approach by humans but specifically allows human approach by Manatee. You, as a human, cannot follow them, feed them, approach them or disturb them. They, as a Marine Mammal, can do pretty much whatever they want. Playing with swimmers (gently) was certainly high on that list for the four that were there that day.

    <p>

    What the Manatee wanted was to rub up against us and play! Once the Stranger was out of the way we went back into the water and the Asst. Super. watched and decided that he had better things to do and that the manatee were better served by the swimmers being extra careful (no cannonball dives or the usual kid's type of hi-jinks were being allowed by the parents) than by an abusive Stranger having a bad day and he left. It was a really cool day (50 F max...).

    <p>

    Sorry, no camera with then so no pictures.

    <p>

    http://www.fiu.edu/~larkinsg/nature_gallery_index.htm
     
  25. I find the last post by one Grover Larkins rather sad. Do you really want to get Djuna to try and screw up some protection agency officer just for doing their job? Armed battery charges for pities sake! All that post has done is make you look like a complete tosser that regards himeself above the laws made out for "other folks". Get a grip.
    <P>
    I think Djuna was wrong, mainly due to the possible precedent being set for less experienced observers (whether or not there were any is hardly relevant). However lets home common sense prevails and all that is given is a warning.
     
  26. Sorry you see things like that Steve. On the other hand you were not being threatened for legal action by an idiot who had less sense than testerone. Was Djuna
    wrong? I think not.... Admittedly this is only one side of the story but on the other hand it seems pretty consistent with my experience with a subset of the
    enforcement troglodytes I've met over the years.

    <p>

    Additional examples:

    <p>

    A ranger (going through the waiting period while criminal bkgnd check was being performed -- mandatory for Federal Firearm Carry Permit for Law Enforcement)
    at everglades N.P. informed me that she could search any Park Visitor's Vehicle whenever she wanted as an armed Law Enforcement Officer. I agreed that she
    most certainly *could* since I am not inclined to argue with an armed individual but that I would most certainly press charges on unlawful search, armed assult and
    battery, etc. unless she had clear probable cause or a search warrant (funny arrest warrants are NOT search warrants, gotta have both, can be one document but
    both have to be there if the arrest is done away from the vehicle...). She took exception to this and, by happenstance, the State's Attorney for Brevard County was
    standing in the Kiosk right behind me. His comment was; Honey, I'd be putting you in prison for that. She asked just exactly who he thought he was, he handed her
    his card and she then attempted to slither under the door. Strange that a National Park Ranger would be so ill informed of the legal precedents, rules and criminal
    codes under which she was scheduled to operate....

    <p>

    As another example -- A certain head of interpretation at Everglades N.P. wanted to charge all "Professional" photographers a fee to photograph in the Park. Funny
    thing was that this was against a whole bunch of Laws beginning with two of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution (commonly called the bill of rights). Press
    and Due Process.... I simply asked him who he was, he refused to identify himself, and I then phoned the Park's Superintendent to ask if Mr. So & So was currently
    at work or on vacation. I was informed that he was working and I then called the Superintendent and filed a complaint that Mr So & So was asking folks on
    Anhinga Trail if they were professional photographers (he was dressed in civvies BTW) and refused to identify himself. A friend told me that he got a radio call about
    5 minutes after I hung up the phone and took off like he had been scalded. Later found out that this earned him an official reprimand (identification MUST be
    presented when requested and reasonably possible).

    <p>

    Now admittedly the 9999 other interactions I've had with Park personnel have been outstanding -- there are really great folks there!!! On the other hand why should
    we, the owners of these parks, tolerate even one ill informed power mad jerk?

    <p>

    Other examples can be had: I filed a complaint about an area being shot up with 22 and 38 cal bullets -- it was never entered in the logbook. I checked since there
    were new holes the next week if they had logged the complaint, they had not, I then sent a letter to the Superintendent. The Enforcement folks then started patrolling
    that lake on a daily basis and, for the past 5 years there have been no more new holes.... I'd imagine that someone got their tootsies toasted for not logging that
    complaint in the first time -- the site of the shooting was only 400m from the main park road and the bullets were headed that direction....

    <p>

    How about the ATF and the Weaver Case? Waco? If the enforcement agencies had followed policy and the appropriate statutes we would all have some spare
    change in our collective pockets and 80+ people would not have died. Should we promote the guys in charge of these debacles (the FBI did until Congress got a
    hold of that fact....). Jerks with guns cannot and should not be tolerated.

    <p>

    --
    For pictures and information check out
    http://www.fiu.edu/~larkinsg/nature_gallery_index.htm

    <p>

     
  27. Grover,
    <P>
    Thanks for the reply - I think we'll have to agree to differ on this stuff.
    <P>
    Do I think Djuna was wrong? Yes - but not criminally so. Do I thing the Rangers mentioned were wrong? Also yes - but also not criminally so. Certainly not the the length with being charged with "armed battery".
    <P>
    I'm a Brit and don't share the American appetite for legal proceedings, and furtunately I don't have to put up with the horrible situation of having our park rangers armed (or most of our police for that matter).
    <P>
    One other point, I think the State Attorney referral to a female park ranger was patronising and sexist, and probably the worst action in your story...
    <P>
    Photographers are not above the law and that applies to the good laws and the bad. Both your actions and that of Djuna make it look (right or wrong) as if you feel the protection laws should only apply to the grunt in the street and not the experienced and sympathetic expert. You're wrong.
     
  28. FWIW I've had both good and bad experiences also. I also suspect, however that what you may be dealing with are "petty govt. pipsqueeks" of the worst kind. Temporary Employees. Summer hires. Reserves. Yes, the NPS, FWS etc is full of them. Particularly in peak seasons. Yes they do often carry guns. Yes they are often working alone. Yes they are often very poorly trained.

    <p>

    Worst case....a boy in my high school class(way back in 71) called a NPS ranger "Smokey" and turned and walked away after a somewhat similar loud verbal confrontation. The "ranger", in front of witnesses, pulled his gun and shot the boy dead. The "ranger" was a high school teacher working as a temporary summer hire. I've also been a "reserve" cop and carried a gun. Believe me, every time I had to confront anyone I was scared to death. I was poorly trained also. I do not recommend that you try to tell the "officer" their job, it will only escillate things to no good end.

    <p>

    Thats my two cents.....

    <p>

    Cheers
     
  29. Bill,

    <p>

    I had heard that story nth hand and even recall reading about it at the time. The ranger was charged and convicted of murder as I recall.

    <p>

    The moral of the entire situation is 99+% of the Rangers out there in uniforms are decent folks and do a pretty good job given (a) inadequate training (b) little or no psychological evaluation and (c) poorly trained leadership. In these they are no different than just about any other Law Enforcement Agency -- on the other hand I am unwilling to allow any Law Enforcement Officer to pull any baloney on me and get away with it.

    <p>

    The National Parks, Monuments and Wildlife Refuges belong to the People, not the USF&WS, Dept. of the Interior, etc.. IF we, the owners, do not behave responsibly then perhaps we will not have these parks much longer.

    <p>

    Also, given the confrontational nature of this encounter, I would most definitely pursue any open legal avenues against the refuge and the citing officer personally in court. It may come to many as a suprise but many (most) Law Enforcement agencies will not back up the actions of their officers in Civil Proceedings if there is even a hint of misconduct involved. It would be my guess that policy requires posting of rules (generally statutes require this) and/or verbal notification (warning) prior to issuance of a citation. I would be suprised if the USF&WS would back up this Officer in this case because of these very reasons.

    <p>

    As a final note -- the police officer who parks his vehicle illegally whilst going in for a cup of coffee can lose his job and get a ticket at the same time -- since the citing officer's behavior was clearly more disruptive than Djuna's the officer may well be also in store for diciplinary action on these grounds. Here in Miami a few years ago we had a real rash of off-duty police being involved in fatal and serious car wrecks -- speeding and generally reckless driving were the culprits. After a newspaper and TV article the internal affairs dept. started checking on tag numbers pulled over and only *warned* and apparently put a dent in the *professional courtesy* policy of not ticketing brother officers and things improved markedly (now if we could stop the drunks from plowing into police cars we'd have it made...).

    <p>

    Good Luck and Best Wishes
     
  30. Well, I have followed this thread through. Most of my
    "big" wildlife pictures were taken in Denali back about
    1968-72. It was a simpler time apparently.
    I will be travelling to Badlands and Yellowstone next
    month with a newly acquired "big" lens.
    I was not aware that people with "big glass" have
    a less-than-sterling rep with some parks folks. Nor
    was I aware of prosecutions for being within 75 ft of
    wildlife, etc.
    Good I learned some of this stuff.
     
  31. Sorry to get in on this so late. But here at denali national park a few years ago two photographers were cited with $300 violations for approaching too closely to moose near the Wonder Lake Ranger station. They did not knuckle under but appeared before the magistrate in fairbanks. They represented themselves and WON the case. All charges were dismissed. Since I have been dealing with the NPS here for over 35 years as a freelance writer and photographer I was most concerned about this incident and took it upon myself to get audio transcripts of the trial. To boil it all down, the defendants did a TERRIBLE job of defending themselves, but the judge ruled in their favor because the Park Service ranger was so patently worng in his actions. Here in a nutshell is the relevent info: Federal law prohibits "INTENTIONAL" harrassment and merely approaching an animal shows NO INTENT to harrass. Also, about this time a judge in Hawaii threw out a case against a boat operator who had approached whales too closely. The judge said that in order to favorably prosecute, the agents needed 1) witnesses willing to testify, 2) videotape, and 3) PROOF OF INTENT to harrass. A NMFS agent was lamenting to me that this made enforcement almost impossible except in extreme cases. You might get cited and taken to court, but without proof of intent - throwing rocks - etc. - you'll likely win. Still cost you money either way. That's my take on this situation. Oh, by the way, after the case here at denali i was able to show the park officials that rangers were biased, untrained, and the approach rule too severe and variably enforced. This one we won - rangers are much better, the distance rule was reduced to 75 feet, and photographer relations improved.
     
  32. I was there a few years ago and an overzelious armed enforcement officer tried to harass me. Said I was in the herd of seals, which I was not. I informed her of that and continued taking my 4x5 shots. She accepted my explanation. She stated that just the animal looking at me was enough to confirm harrassment of the seals, which is false. She seemed happy to show off her stainless 357 S&W, but did not make any threatening motions or comments. She did give me her card when requested. We had no further problems.
    I was there when some tourists put their kids on top of the seals. I told them it was a dangerous thing todo and risked their kids. They stopped. It is a wonderful place.

    The eco- fanatics overdo their stance. The fact is that that colony is thriving in spite of early harrassment shows that humans do not always affect animals with our behavior. sometimes we do, but not there at this time.
    There are now some docents and some signs which is educational and a good thing.
     
  33. Djuna,
    I have read these postings from 1998 with interest. By now there should have been an outcome. What was the ruling?
     

Share This Page