The wolves from the norwegian woods

There are millions of excellent wildlife photos around. A lot of them, maybe most of them, taken under what is called “controlled conditions”, that is of captive animals. So are my pictures of wolves. The only wolves I have seen is this pack of wolves consisting of two parents and 13 younger ones, born in diffent years. These 15 wolves lives in an enclosure of about 10.000 m2, consisting of a nature more or less like the wilderness surrounding this wilderness park, that is Namsskogan Familiepark in the middle of Norway.

The wolf with the green mark is Fenris, father to 12 of the 13 younger ones. The last came from a zoo in Kristiansand in Norway last year, to see if the mother of the pack would adopt a new one. She did. This was part of a study, preparations in Sweden to transfere wolf puppies born captive to the wild.

I visited last summer, to write about the information about predators they give to schoolchildren in the Predator School, and again last week. Familieparken is closed during winter, but except for the bears who are sleeping, life goes on as normal. And I got some nice shots, among them of wolves in thick, winter fur. I did some journalistic work on my visit, but this park also offers photo safari for photographers who want to do predotors. It is mainly foreigners who do this, and it is on a small scale. But there is a lot of discussion about these kind of things going on, not the least on the internett.
A google search for “photographing captive animal” gave more than 24 million hits! A lot of this discussion is very interesting, and important, I think. Among other things because a lot of wildlife photos are not done in the wild, but on captive animals. As it is described in this article by Ted Williams in Audubon Magazine: “Deist describes the early clientele as “very secretive, because they didn’t want anyone to know the source. Concurrently, these amazing “wildlife photos” started showing up in magazines, calendars, and posters—close-up action shots with every whisker in perfect focus. Similar game farms sprang up around the country.”

“There are only a few animals that are more elusive then wolves and that makes them difficult to find and photograph. Wolves often hunt at night and are usually shy around humans for good reason”, writes Robert Berdan on his site, Canadian Nature Photographer. He tells that for a nature photographer there is no greater pleasure then photographing a wild animal in its natural habitat. However, he has also photographed animals at wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoos and educational centers, and especially mention a wolf center were photographers can walk with the wolves. “I have not photographed at game farms in the US so won’t comment on them. One of the criticisms by some photographers that have photographed at certain game farms in the US is that the animals were either poorly treated or housed in very small cages.”

There are no small cages at Namsskogan, and also no tamed animals. They are left alone, but are used to humans of course. And are very eager at feeding times.

Is it ethical to photograph captive animals? Askes a photographer on photolife.com. “Photography in the wilderness is very difficult and time consuming. Some species are extremely elusive (almost impossible to find) while others are endangered and deserve to be left in peace”, answers Peter K. Burian, who also cites Joe Van Os of Van Os Photo Safaris: “If every wanna-be was staking out the real thing, the pressure on animals in the wild would be exceptionally great,” says Joe Van Os of Van Os Photo Safaris.

Also many of the comments are interesting, like this one: “Many photographers do not know enough about the animals they are photographing to make good photos without disturbing them.”  But to rent animals for photo-shoot is maybe not the answer? I need to cite Ted Williams again: “Audubon has sent me to lots of wild places over the past 31 years, but I’d seen only one wolf and three cougars (a litter) until December 8, 2009. On that day, before noon in the Glacier National Park ecosystem of northwestern Montana, I encountered not just one wolf but two and not just one cougar but two! What were the chances of that?  Well, they were 100 percent, because I’d rented the animals for a photo shoot.” But he is not sure it is right to use these beautiful and healthy animal “models,” as the industry calls them.
“They claim these animals are ‘wildlife ambassadors.’ No. An injured animal used for education—that’s a wildlife ambassador. An animal kept solely for profit is an exploited animal. The wild isn’t pretty. I’d rather see it real than all gussied up. When I see a poster of a big, beautiful air-blown lion with a mane that looks better than my hair galloping toward me, I feel cheated.”

Myself I do not know the answers, and the wolves or other animals at Namsskogan can not be compared with the excamples mentioned above. I am sure they have as good a life as an animal in captivity can have. But i am going to read more about these topics, because I think there is a lot to be aware of and discuss for anyone who is photgraphing wildlife or other animals.
There are more wolf photos in my photogallery, also photo of other predators. All from “controlled conditions”!

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74 thoughts on “The wolves from the norwegian woods

  1. Beautiful images. Beautiful. Of course it’s ethical to take photographs of animals not in the wild–as long as the photographer is honest–as you were. I would love to come see those beautiful animals . . .

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  2. Hi,
    Great photos.
    Yes I can certainly see and understand how hard it would be to get some photos of wild animals outside of a controlled area. Regardless of where the photo of the wild animal is taken, I think it is good to be able to show people photos of animals. Some people may never have seen that particular animal before, 🙂

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      1. You are welcome dear Bente. Thank you for the Veronica, the blue flower… I am impressed so much when I searched you can find my post with this title… With my love, nia

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  3. I have often wondered about this very issue when I have seen photographs of captive animals (and when I have suspected the animals in the photographs are in captivity but I can find no open indication of it). You have raised the question in a very interesting and insightful way here. I appreciate the sources and links you’ve included. I especially like Ted Williams’s point about wildlife ambassadors. I agree with Sandra above: as long as the photographer is open and honest about the work and, I would add, mindful of and compassionate about the plight of animals and wildlife in the world (and I know you are) then it is ethical.

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  4. Beautiful shots of beautiful wolves. I like the way you captured them looking straight at you (& me when I view the photo)and also their movement running down the slope.

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  5. I know the answer to this question for myself. Many times I must make the ethical decision under the circumstances at the time. I can not answer the question for someone else. Let each individual’s conscience be their guide.
    Food for thought.
    If I harass a house fly to take its picture it will return the favor by harassing me when I am trying to nap.
    The hawk steals my chicken and I harass it while it is perched.
    The so called “majestic” Eagle will harass and steal from a gull before capturing a meal on its own.
    Things are often not what they appear, therefore I reserve judgement.
    Like the steal trap or snare user beware.
    I might receive a ticket for not wearing a seat belt while a person rides past on a motorcycle without helmet. Life is not always fair.
    An imperfect image shot hand held is for me. For another it may be that perfectly focused shot after much work and equipment setting up to achieve this.
    An Irish setter romping over trampled snow seems natural to me and I enjoy the sight.
    Wolves romping over trampled snow seems unnatural the enjoyment of observation not so much.
    Good post requiring the reader and observer to think. Thanks

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  6. excellent images. I talked to a fellow today that proudly killed a wolf this year. I was critical and expressed my displeasure. When I say your, timely for me as I am still saddened, images I was happy that at least those you photo’d are safe. Again, I enjoyed you well executed photos and liked the commentary.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your photos, Bente…they are beautiful…and beautiful creatures. Thank you for the commentary, too. I think you did well by the animals, describing their plight respectfully. Well done.

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  8. These are incredible intimate shots. You’ll have to excuse me naivete, but I’m rather benighted when it comes to cameras. I’m amazed by either your proximity to the animals, or the lens in which you used to capture close-range shots. The one where the pack is plunging down the snowy hill is stunning!

    Blessings,
    Cara

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    1. Thank you Cara! Yes, I was not very far from the wolves, appr. 10-100 m I believe… If you are interested in the lenses: I used 2 cameras, canon eos 400D with a 75-300 mm, and canon mark II, with 24-105 mm. You did not ask for this, but the metal at the bottom of the trees are because the wolves are borrowing the land of the bears while the bears sleep during winter.

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  9. Wonderful images – how lucky you are to live in such beautiful countryside where you get winter snows. Even in an enclosed area or nature reserve, it really is exciting to get up close with animals in their natural environment like this.

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  10. Wow, these are amazing photos. I have always loved wolves, they are such beautiful creatures. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for sharing such breathtaking photos.

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  11. I love these images, such beautiful and intelligent creatures and you’ve captured them beautifully. I’m all for photographing animals in captivity providing that the situation is acknowledged and the photographer is not misleading the viewer into thinking that the images were taken in the wild. I believe that without such images or video footage we might never see and/or fall in love with the amazing creatures that exist on this planet. Understanding and admiring wild life (be they wild or in captivity) helps us feel empathy towards their plight especially when so many are endangered through no fault of their own.

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  12. Wonderful shots. And you pose interesting ethical issues about wildlife. It sounds like perhaps this place, where you shot the wolves, is a sanctuary? Sometimes, wildlife lives on inside a sanctuary, where otherwise it might not survive in the wild. I believe that if the animals are able to live a reasonably comfortable life, okay minus their own predators and minus their own vast native habitat to roam, and their existence contributes to education and/or wildlife research sanctuaries are a welcome alternative for them. I’m curious if wolves are a controversial topic in Norway as they are here in the western U.S.

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    1. Thanks for your long and interesting comment, Rangewriter! You ask if wolves are contoversial? You bet! Especially since they reappeared after beeing extinct for some generations, that is until the 1980’ties. To make it short: “all” people in the cities are pro wolves, “all” on the countryside is against them, in that way that they feel it as a problem if the wolves kills their sheep or their dogs.
      I did not find these wolves in a sanctuary. We do not have any of those in Norway. It is kind of zoo, but it is more like a wilderness park, with big enclosures for the different species, and it is only open to the public in summer. The rest of the year the animals “rest in peace”…

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      1. Thanks for the follow-upl. Wolves were reintroduced to the wilderness areas of my state in 1996. They have prospered remarkably well, after being virtually extinct since about 1926. Like in Norway, their presence is highly controversial. I find all the arguments for/against fascinating. Homo Sapiens really likes to control his environment!

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  13. These are spectacular shots of gorgeous animals. I believe very strongly that it’s not only okay to photograph ‘captive’ animals as long as that’s no secret, but more importantly, any animals that may be uncommon or even endangered should be exposed in all of their extraordinary beauty and wonder to people who might not already know about them. Lovely work!
    Kathryn

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  14. Here in the USA the truly wild animals such as wolves may be a little hard to find, but we do have lots of wild horses that freely roam huge expanses of land. In California alone, free roaming wild horses and burros range over 7.1 million acres of public land with an additional 2.3 million acres of non-Bureau of Land Management land. Many opportunities are available to see and photograph them in this habitat, which is something I hope to have the time and money to do some day. In the meantime, I content myself with photographing wild foxes and deer in my rural Michigan back yard!

    Thanks for your visit to my blog and your “like”. Just as a side note, my last name means “wolf” in Hungarian!

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  15. Hi, Rangewriter, it seems I can only give one reply (?), so I write my next to you in this way. That is to again say thank you a lot for your interesting comment! It seems reintroduction of predators are no easy thing in most countries..

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  16. Ich grüße dich Bente, war mit dir und den vielen Rentieren unterwegs, bin mit dir und dem Bike durch die Wüste geradelt, Zwischenstop bei den Luchsen (erst mit Tränen in den Augen dann beim Weiterlesen und Anschauen deiner Fotos einfach wieder glücklich) und jetzt hier, verweile ich bei deinen tollen Fotos mit den Wölfen, was für faszinierende Tiere, wenn auch in Gefangenenschaft, dennoch mit einem kleinen Stückchen Freiheit. Hier in Deutschland gibt es nun auch einige Wolfsrudel, von den Einen gehasst, von den Anderen geliebt. In fast allen Bundesländern ist er ein geschütztes Tier, außer wohl hier in Sachsen. Die Naturschützer kämpfen, hoffentlich mit Erfolg, für das Abschußverbot. In englisch konnte ich diesen Text leider nicht verfassen, aber vielleicht hast du einen guten Übersetzer?
    Viele Grüße aus dem frühlingshaften Deutschland wünscht dir die Iris

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  17. Very, very thought-provoking article, Bente. It is a dilemma, isn’t it? Agree w/ Rangewriter above. Learning more, education, research, question everything. Sometimes our wild animals absolutely must remain protected lest they be hunted, poached, mass herd kills (the US’s BLM wild horse kills), etc., to extinction under the guise of “thinning out” for the species own good. Yeah, right! Sorry for the rant, but appreciate that you opened it up! By the way, I also love your photos!

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