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This post is considerably more issue related than most of my posts have made lately. It is inspired by an opportunity I think is on my horizon to photograph an animal in the wild that doesn’t always happen.

The issue in question, is it better to photograph an animal in the wild than in captivity? I’ll say right up front, my opinion is that it’s definitely “better” to photograph wild.

A Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a dead Ring-necked Duck hen at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. (Rick A. Brown)This is a wild Red-tailed Hawk image, it has a female Scaup or Ring-necked Duck

However, I do feel there is a place for captive shots. I do feel the photographer has the obligation to consider the conduct of those caring for the animals to determine if these are ethical shots to make. Admittedly, I was once less enlightened on this matter, although, I never did believe in blanket use of captive regardless of conditions.

A Red-tailed Hawk (CAPT) landing. (Rick A. Brown)For comparison purposes this is a captive Red-tailed photo, this is a film image compared to the previous digital image also.

I feel that the place for the captive photos comes from the fact that many species would hardly appear in print if it wasn’t for photos made in captivity. This lowers awareness of the species in the public, which I feel is a negative.

I can certainly, understand all of the negatives associated with captive photos. Today, my stance is that animals should only be photographed in captivity when they are in captivity for conservation, rehabilitation, research, or education. The fee you pay should be part of funding the cause. I once photographed captive wildlife under other circumstances, but will not do so going forward. The captive Red-tailed Hawk pictured above was part of an educational program.

The final image is of a wild Bobcat, an animal I initially thought I’d only be able to photograph in captivity, but have been able to photograph in the wild a few times.

A Bobcat (Lynx rufus) hunting at William L. Finley NWR. (Rick A. Brown)