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Denali National Park

Approaching Wildlife

There are regulations in Denali National Park about how close you can approach the different kinds of wildlife. This is to protect the wildlife from harassment and the visitors to the park from harm.  Most of the people I saw in Denali wisely respected these regulations. One day I saw two idiot photographers walking towards a large bull moose.  George, the professional wildlife photographer I was with that day, thought they were getting dangerously close and muttered something about them being fools (or words to that effect). As they got even closer, he yelled at to them to get back, but they persisted anyway. People like that make other photographers look bad, and I suspect they were just two tourists. The serious photographers I know are more responsible than that. I believe we have an ethical responsibility not to harm our subjects, which means we don't stress out the wildlife (or pick wildflowers, or leave trash, or damage tundra).

Although YOU should not approach the WILDLIFE beyond certain distance limits, some of the the wildlife can approach YOU.  We watched several caribou working their way across a valley. George predicted that they would pass between two ponds some distance away, so we set up on a ridge overlooking the ponds, and well beyond the established wildlife distance limits from where the caribou were at the time. Once we picked our position, we didn't move from our spot. We waited. Sure enough, the caribou eventually moved between the ponds, browsing as they went, and passed a mere 50-60 feet from our location.  Since they approached us, and we did not move, we did not break any regulations. The two lower photos were taken of the caribou as they passed our position.

The top photo on this page, with part of the Alaska range as a backdrop, was taken out of the window of a bus on the park road. The bus rolled to s stop as the caribou walked along, and all kinds of people stuck their cameras out the windows and fired away furiously.

I should point out the obvious. It is one thing to allow feeding caribou to approach your position. Just don't try this with a grizzly bear.

October 5, 2000
June 18, 2004

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