Tasmanian Devil - Sarcophilus harrisiiTasmanian devil with carcass. Photographed in a wildlife sanctuary.
When it comes to wildlife photography you might have heard the term ‘baiting’ for wildlife. The term refers to laying out bait to attract certain wildlife in a particular area. The bait used is as varied as the animal's people want to attract. It can be as little as seeds and nuts and can go to whole dead animal carcasses. In rare occasions, people use live bait such as mice, rats or even rabbits to attract raptors, snakes or other carnivores.
Life bait is quite often held in place with a wire or string so the animals can’t escape and the photographer knows the point of impact so to speak. This is a cruel way of photographing wildlife as the pray is terrified and has no way to escape and it doesn’t show the natural behaviour of the predator or prey. In nature, predators have a quite high failure rate and the prey has a chance to escape. For instance, in winter mice and rats stay beneath the snow for shelter and warmth. The predators like owls use their excellent hearing to find their prey. The owls will then penetrate the snow to try to catch the prey, so the actual impact is disguised by the snow. Some photographers use that instinct of the owls but place the store-bought mouse on top of the snow to get the action shot. Store bought mice are white or black, whereas wild one are mostly grey. Another point is, that mice and rats bought in stores can carry diseases such as salmonella, pathogens and so forth which can harm the predator too.
Saltwater Crocodile - Crocodylus porosusSaltwater Crocodile feeding on chicken carcass. Photographed in a Zoo.
The milder form of baiting is as mentioned above to spread out seeds, nuts and meat or carcasses. This will attract lots of wildlife too but there is no suffering involved as there is with wiring a living animal.
The downside of baiting is that animals get used to food sources which are usually not there and once the photographer stops baiting, the animals has become dependent on the location.
Baiting of wildlife should not be done. Animals can lose their shyness and become easier prey. Wildlife will associate humans with easy food and can lose their instincts and natural behaviours. Some animals can show aggression toward humans and inflict injuries.
Barking Owl - Ninox connivensBarking Owl feeding on rat. Photographed in a wildlife sanctuary.
In rare occasions, you might get tempted to bait to help wildlife to survive hard winters or drought. Of course, this is debatable as some say it interferes with natural selection as with harsh conditions only the fittest will survive. On the other hand, with vulnerable or threatened species an extra ration of food might just help the species to survive.
My personal opinion is not to bait wildlife and try to capture the beauty of these animals in their natural habitat and behaviour. What about you?