I found a rare strange place in Tidewater, Oregon, an Arctic Wolf reserve. Named the White Wolf Sanctuary and Educational Facility, it’s an animal rescue for abused Arctic Wolves. I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about my visit there. Personally, I’m all for rescuing abused animals. And I have very definite views on keeping exotic animals as pets. Frankly, I think it’s a bad idea. And I believe all captive animals need to be treated with care, respect and love. So what was my real problem here? I think I felt I was perceived as one of the bad guys.
First, why did I want to go to this reserve? Well, to see Arctic Wolves up close and personal. To take some really nice photographs of the wolves, which I am unlikely ever to see in the wild. I am used to going to zoos and under the right circumstances being able to get some really great photographs. Is that really bad? I am at heart a wildlife photographer. Thus opportunities to see wildlife up close and personal, without some of the danger and expense of a big safari is alright by me.
Since this was my motive for going, I was rather disappointed to be greeted at the gate by the owner who had a great disdain for photographers, even to the point of threatening to outlaw all photography at the reserve. She seemed to think that all photographers were evil and out to exploit her wolves. My impression was she thought making money by selling likenesses of her wolves on greeting cards was a sin, basically because the photographer was not giving any of the profits of these sales to the reserve. Clearly, keeping exotic animals is expensive, and the reserve does have to find ways to support itself. But is it really wrong to expect to be able to photograph captive animals? I agree that exploitation of any animal is wrong. However, if I am respectful of the animals and concerned for their safety, but I also want to take their picture, does that make me evil? Have we as wildlife photographers failed to be good citizens? Am I paying for the bad behavior of others? What do you think?