Shooting wildlife can be some of the most rewarding photographic opportunities out there. While it may seem harmless to throw a rock to get a bird to take off, or to get as close as humanly possible to your subject, the reality is that just your presence can have bad effects on the wildlife you are shooting.
There are laws that protect wildlife and the chief amongst them in this country is the Endangered Species Act and one Florida photographer is learning the hard way that getting too close can be a costly endeavor.
Jim Neiger recently plead guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act. According to the court documents, Neiger was teaching wildlife photography courses, and as part of those classes he took clients out to take images of Snail Kite. A Snail Kite is a raptor, not far removed from an Eagle or Hawk. One big consideration here is that the Snail Kite is protected by the Endangered Species Act, and the law stipulates that you must remain at least 500 feet away from their nest at all times.
Neiger did not remain the required distance away. In fact, he parked his boat right up next to the nests in order to try and get the birds to stir and in some cases fly – in order to make for good pictures for himself and his students.
This is bad for many reasons. Not only is it incredibly stressful to the animals, but birds of many species are known to abandon their eggs, young, and nests if they are disturbed by humans. There is no proof that any damage like this occurred as a result of Neiger’s violation of the law, but the possibility remains.
Since he plead guilty, Neiger is now subject to a $9,000 fine (in order to keep from having to surrender his boat motor and photography gear), and he could face up to one year in prison and up to an additional $100,000 fine. It just goes to show that you need to be aware of all laws regarding the wildlife you intend to shoot, because not knowing the law doesn’t keep you from getting arrested for breaking it.
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