A complex alliance between human beings and birds of prey

Few introducing word

About twenty people stood where a gravel road ended at the gate to a cattle pasture, watching a female peregrine falcon pump her long, slender wings and sweep in wide, climbing circles above them. An early-March sunset silhouetted the low mountain ridges around Dillon, Montana, and lit up the falcon’s clay-orange breast each time she swung toward it. The peregrine’s spiraling flight lifted her higher and higher into the sky, until the only detail visible was the low sun flashing silver on the undersides of her wings.

The people watching were almost all members of the Montana Falconers Association, gathered for their annual spring meet. The meet had been organized by Brian Mutch, who works for the Peregrine Fund, the organization largely responsible for repopulating the United States with endangered peregrine falcons. Mutch had been charged with rehabilitating this particular bird after she was found wounded by a gunshot the previous fall.

As the falcon soared, the evening sky filled with the fluttering forms of ducks that wanted to land in a creek bottom across the field from the falconers or in the pasture itself, where a local rancher had left alfalfa for his cattle. The ducks had spotted the falcon from a great distance and were careful to fly above the raptor. Most ducks–in fact, most birds–can escape a falcon in a tail chase; falcons are most effective when they stoop down on prey. The peregrine ignored the flying ducks and circled in the sky–“waiting on”–watching the people on the ground.

Mutch had spotted five mallards feeding in a shallow swale in the field between the end of the road and the creek bottom. When the peregrine had climbed to about a thousand feet, Mutch and his brother, Dale, charged across the field, dodging befuddled cattle, whooping both to flush the ducks and to draw the falcon’s attention. The mallards shot into the air and fled in a tight sprint to the south.

High above, the falcon tilted earthward, rowed her wings to power her stoop, and then poured herself down through the sky. Wind ripped audibly through her feathers, and the small brass bells tied to her feet whistled. When the ducks saw the falcon free-falling toward them, the small flock split. A drake hesitated, unsure which pair to follow, and the prey had selected itself. The falcon slammed the duck with an impact that sounded like a baseball bat swatting a down pillow. Sinking her talons deep into the duck’s back, the peregrine rode her prey to the ground with little loss of velocity.

A strange oooohhh of awe rose from the falconers gathered at the end of the road, one that said they appreciated the kill but felt it a little, too. Mutch ran to where the two birds had come down, worried that the falcon had hit the ground too hard and might be injured. He found her perched atop the duck, stripping feathers and skin from his breast with twitching jerks of her sharp beak.

Mutch picked up both the duck and the falcon. Then, after ripping off one of the duck’s legs and holding it in front of the falcon until she began to eat, Mutch drew the rest of the duck away. Usually the falconer will reward his bird by allowing it to eat part of the warm carcass, often the head, and then supplement its meal with some frozen meat. Once the bird is separated from its kill, the falconer will bag the prey and take it home for supper. Brian Mutch dined on duck that night.

bird-migrate

Falconry, at heart, is about what birds do naturally. Perhaps the sport’s greatest attraction is its lifting of veils, so to speak, on the nature of killing and prey, and the perception it creates for the falconer that he is somehow one step closer to the workings of the raptor’s world. That the falcons, hawks, and eagles used in the sport are calm, poised killers that employ thrilling aerial abilities in slaying their victims adds to the fascination. Falconers become attached to their birds with a passion that nonfalconers simply can’t imagine. Two weeks after the Dillon meet Brian Mutch sat in a bar in Ovando, Montana, talking about the lengths he’d go to for his other bird, a captive-bred peregrine named June that he has had for nine years. “I’ve often wondered, if I got stuck in my truck somewhere, like in a snowstorm, how I could shave off pieces of my skin and keep her going,” Mutch said, with a chuckle that did not mean he was kidding. Many falconers have a fascination with birds of prey that runs too deep for them to understand fully. They speak of seeing falcons in their dreams and remember spending hours as children gazing at hawks on telephone poles. “It’s crazy,” said a falconer at the Dillon meet. “I hope I get over it someday.”

A falconer’s involvement with his bird is constantly reinforced by the amount of time they spend together. “Manning” a bird, or teaching it to hunt from the fist and return to a lure, requires daily interaction. Once the bird has been taught to accept its human hunting partner, maintaining it in effective flying condition demands constant attention.

Unlike dogs and horses, a wild-caught falcon is not submissive (although a captive-bred one might be somewhat so). Falconers do not physically intimidate their birds into compliance the way a dog trainer might. The falconer’s main tool is hunger. Falconry is based on convincing a bird that the falconer is its best meal ticket. This is not to say that falconers starve their birds; that would be counterproductive, because raptors must maintain their weight within a delicate range–a matter of a few ounces–in order to fly efficiently.

Ultimately, a falconer doesn’t hunt a bird; the falcon recognizes and agrees to hunt with a consistent producer of prey. Every time a bird leaves the fist, it is free to migrate–to fly away forever. In the early days of falconry on this continent, a number of falconers incorporated that fact into their sport. Falcons, particularly peregrines, were trapped in the spring, manned, and flown throughout the fall and winter. When migratory urges began welling within the birds the following spring, they were released back into the wild. Although that practice still exists, over the past thirty years it has become less common.

Hunting with raptors has been practiced throughout the world for millennia, but in the United States the sport, for all intents and purposes, had its beginnings in the 1930s. Nowadays, hunting should be supported by modern devices to enhance the range of observation, such as binocular and rangefinders. Especially for bird hungting, using of rangefinders is indispensable (check Top Rangefinder for the best rangefinder reviews) Early American settlers had no time to train birds to fly after game, particularly when birds were far less effective than guns, traps, nets, and even dogs when it came to putting meat on the table.

bird-hunting

Another impediment to falconry in America was the settlers’ perceptions of the birds themselves. Falcons, hawks, and eagles, like bears, wolves, and foxes, were predators competing with settlers for prey, and they raided domestic stockyards and chicken coops. As such, they were to be killed on sight. Change in this attitude was a long time coming. Well into this century states paid bounties on raptors. As late as the 1960s it was illegal in some states to keep certain raptors captive but perfectly acceptable to kill them, as long as you left the carcass in the field. As the recovered peregrine that Mutch took to Dillon illustrates, raptors are still sometimes shot.

When Americans began to practice falconry, they adopted ancient training practices and language. In strict falconry jargon “falcon” refers only to a female peregrine falcon. A male peregrine, typically a third smaller than the female, is a “tiercel.” The female gyrfalcon is a “gyrfalcon,” while the male goes by “gerkin.” How a bird came into captivity further defines it. An “eyass” is a chick taken from a wild nest, or aerie, and raised in captivity. If the bird was taken just as it was beginning to stray from the nest but before it learned how to make extended flights, it is called a “brancher.” Birds caught in the wild when they are older than that are “passagers,” or “passage birds,” because they are generally taken during their first migration. If such a bird has reached its adult plumage, it is a “haggard.” Should its first molt occur in captivity, it is “intermewed.” Purists would claim that only someone who flies true falcons–peregrines, gyrfalcons, and other raptors of the genus falco–is worthy of the name “falconer,” and that those who fly hawks, eagles, and owls should be called “austringers,” although this bit of snobbery has fallen out of fashion among mainstream American falconers.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes kindled an interest in falconry with his 1920 National Geographic article “Falconry, The Sport of Kings,” and Colonel A. E. “Luff” Meredith, a career military aviator, is generally credited with bringing falconry to America. But it was the Craighead twins, Frank Jr. and John (now well known for their grizzly-bear research), who, beginning in the mid-1930s, did the most to spread popular interest in falconry. While still in high school the Craigheads met Meredith in Washington, D.C., where he talked to them about training wild raptors. At the time, the brothers had been shooting birds to satisfy an interest in taxidermy, but falconry captured their fancy. The Craigheads began working with Cooper’s hawks and quickly moved to peregrines, prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks–even owls and ospreys. In 1937, while attending Pennsylvania State University (where they flew their falcons on the university golf course), the brothers co- authored an article in National Geographic about falconry.

Five years later they published another piece in the magazine. Those two articles created a foundation for American interest in the sport. But the shaping of modern American falconry would take another thirty years, and its fortunes were intimately bound up with those of the peregrine falcon, which the pesticide DDT nearly brought to extinction.

Peregrine falcons began rapidly disappearing from this country in the 1950s, and DDT was not initially implicated. Indeed, falconers were blamed at least in part for the dwindling of the peregrine population. Prior to 1970 no effective captive-breeding programs existed, and most falcons used in falconry were taken from the wild. It was assumed that a vast black market existed for illegally trapped birds.

Certainly there are now and were then bad falconers. In 1984 Operation Falcon, a major U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sting, nabbed a number of falconers for various felony violations. Operation Falcon proved to be a wildly controversial episode in the annals of falconry: it engendered bad feelings between falconers and law-enforcement agencies which persist to this day. The operation was fraught with mismanagement, falconers claim. For example, they say, the Fish and Wildlife Service appeared to violate the spirit of the laws it was purportedly trying to uphold by allowing agents to steal then-protected anatum peregrine eggs from a nest for use as bait. In court Operation Falcon lost de facto entrapment arguments, found almost all its felony charges reduced to misdemeanors, and failed to prove the existence of an organized black market.

The truth is that the falconers’ take of wild birds was probably biologically inconsequential. From 1965 to 1970 it became evident to biologists that the real villain was DDT. As it happens, falconers turned out to be largely responsible for the remarkable recovery of the peregrine falcon. In 1970 Tom Cade, a falconer and at the time a professor of biology at Cornell University, started the Peregrine Fund, which orchestrated what has been one of the more successful re-introductions to date of an endangered species in this country. Where others–including the Fish and Wildlife Service–had failed, Cade succeeded, largely because the birds he used for breeding stock were young birds donated by fellow falconers and were comfortable with captivity. The older birds used by the Fish and Wildlife Service would not breed.

national-geographic

“A lot of the information that led to the conclusion that a continental decline had occurred came from falconers who had been in the field, watching nests and keeping records,” Cade told me not long ago. “Falconers were also influential in captive-breeding and release techniques. Their biggest contribution to the Peregrine Fund was to donate birds–either lending or giving them–so that we could use them as breeding stock. About half of the birds we used came from falconers.”

In addition to saving the wild peregrine, the Peregrine Fund’s captive-breeding program ensured the availability of birds for falconers. Captive breeding–along with the advent of radio telemetry–has also influenced the sport in other ways.

Traditional training methods call for leaving birds hooded or in dark rooms for great lengths of time, to keep them calm. But the advent of captive-bred birds has led to new approaches. Chicks are often given the run of the house. This dispels their notion that every time they see a human being, they will be fed. It also deepens the bond between man and bird. Mutch’s peregrine June, which he raised from a chick, now believes that Mutch is her mate and will actively court him, sticking her beak in the dirt and raising her tail high while loudly sounding the kak-kak-kak of her mating call.

Radio telemetry has allowed falconers to keep their birds longer, further increasing opportunities for learning and decreasing pressure on wild populations by nearly eliminating the need for trapping new birds. Prior to telemetry, a falcon that pursued prey for miles before killing it–or giving up and roosting–would probably not be found again. But now a falconer can track his bird and lure it back to him. Telemetry has also changed the kinds of flights falconers will attempt with their birds, making possible the pursuit of challenging quarry like sage grouse and prairie chickens, which are likely to fly a long way off before a falcon can catch them.

The North American Falconers Association, founded in 1961, now claims 2,600 members (an additional 1,100 falconers are believed to operate independent of the organization). NAFA estimates that the number of participants has increased over the past decade by about 10 percent. “We’re growing at a very slow pace, which is what we want,” says the president of the organization, Ken Felix, a veterinarian from McKean, Pennsylvania.

Owing largely to NAFA, falconry is probably the most highly regulated wildlife-related sport in existence. “Falconry is hard to get into and it’s kind of designed that way,” Mutch says. “It’s designed to discriminate against people who aren’t totally committed to it. You get a lot of people who want a glamorous pet– who want to walk around with a falcon on their fist. Falcons are not pets.”

Felix points to a traditional stronghold of falconry, Great Britain, to illustrate what NAFA does not want to see happen in this country. “The trouble in England right now is, to be a falconer you only have to plunk down fifteen pounds for a license. As a result, the sport is deteriorating. Incompetent people are doing it. I’m not elitist, but I think the situation we have in the U.S. is appropriate. We are keeping the sport generally away from casually interested people. We now have regulations. They’re restrictive, but we want them restrictive. They’re not hardship. Anybody who wants to put forth the effort can do it.”

The effort is a serious undertaking. To become a master falconer in the United States a person must pass a hundred-question exam and then spend two years as an apprentice to a licensed sponsor and five years as a general falconer before applying for master falconer’s status. Each state regulates the kinds and number of birds a falconer may fly at each stage of his progression, and may inspect mews and breeding facilities randomly. NAFA has been instrumental in developing legislation to protect birds of prey, and is actively involved in raptor restoration and rehabilitation programs. NAFA publications keep falconers up to date on developing techniques in the care and training of raptors.

NAFA’s concern with standards indicates an awareness that all responsible falconers have about their sport: despite falconry’s basis in natural acts, it is the hand of man from which the falcon flies. A falconer’s error can bring this home with gritty reality. The day before Mutch’s peregrine made its stoop at the ducks outside Dillon, a female gyrfalcon was killed while chasing sage grouse. The gyrfalcon had followed a grouse into cover and caught it in sagebrush. While she held the bird, trying to figure out how to extract and kill it, a golden eagle slammed the gyrfalcon from behind.

Jeff King, then a forty-year-old registered nurse and veterinary student, had trapped the immature gyrfalcon in the Palouse region of eastern Washington five months before. “A wild bird like this would probably not have allowed itself to be killed by another predator unless it had gotten pretty hungry,” King said weeks later, still upset by the incident. He was coming to terms with the notion that he had miscalculated, had made the falcon hungry enough to ignore her natural caution, and had cost the bird her life.

Even captive-bred raptors revert almost completely to instinct in the act of hunting: nobody trains peregrines to break the neck of their prey immediately after bringing it to the ground, yet they all do. Falconers simply couldn’t do much to improve a falcon’s efficiency in killing; the human being’s work is geared toward gaining acceptance from the bird and taking it into situations where it can act naturally. Each time he succeeds, a falconer edges closer to fully understanding those acts and what they mean.

Abstract: 

Hunting with birds of prey is an ancient sport, but it did not become popular in the US until the 1930s, and it is highly regulated. Falconers helped to repopulate falcons in the 1970s after the use of DDT made them an endangered species.

The Undercover Pursuit of Wildlife Poachers

Introduction

Writers take to Louisiana like alligators to a bayou. I think it’s because Louisiana is our most exotic state (on the mainland, anyway). It has a French history, a Cajun culture, feudal politics and a landscape about three-fourths marsh. Louisiana doesn’t look or act like other states. I believe it was A.J. Liebling who wrote that the main difference was that Louisiana lacked a tradition of democracy. But as Marc Reisner shows us in Game Wars, nature too sets Louisiana apart. “It is, or was, the best habitat forwildlife in the entire world,” he writes. Living off the land is still not only possible but practical. Big-time poaching flourishes as well, and it’s the poachers and their pursuers, particularly a colorful, arrogant, profane and off-and-on successful federal undercover ‘agent Reisner calls “Dave Hall,” who are the subject of this free-Swinging book,

“Hall” is what he’s called here, but I hope that’s not his real name; Reisner doesn’t say. If it is his real name, I hope he’s made a midlife career switch to something like silk farming or telemarketing because this book is going to blow his cover and probably jeopardize his life. There is money enough in alligator hides and illegal game fish and other contraband wildlife products that murder is not uncommon. Hall, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s law enforcement branch, spends his time conjuring up undercover schemes to nail the entrepreneurs who get obscenely rich trading in illicit wildlife.

Reisner’s book is both a page-turning narrative and an editorial on the decimation of nature by greed, but it’s mostly the former. Hall is an irresistible character. When we first meet him he is admiring a flock of geese and on his way to meet a Cajun outlaw known as “A. J.” whom he has converted into an undercover operative. Later he demands to know how many alligators the Cajun poached on his best night. The man reluctantly concedes that his record was 114, at an average length of five feet and an average take of $8 a foot. He became Hall’s ally after the mysterious deaths of several cohorts–possibly at the hands of competing poachers. Now, Hall says with a smile, here he is taking a notorious [ alligator poacher to lunch. “Former alligator poacher,” the man corrects him.

“I hope that’s true,” says Hall. Hall is happy in his work. He loves chasing bad guys, Wiring himself with a $5,000 tape recorder and wheedling incriminating conversation out of them. When the trade in illegal ivory boomed in the 1970s he volunteered to lead a sting aimed at nabbing the big-ticket traders in Alaska who deal in ivory from walrus tusks. Good ole boy Dave poses as a new-rich Texan in the oillease game who hankers to sell ivory to his friends. His customary cool erodes only when he finds himself at the mercy of an Alaskan version of Hell’s Angels known as the Brothers (but I’m not telling what happens).

At one point he submits to a strip search by an ivory dealer nicknamed “Sealskin Charlie” who has his doubts about ole Dave–who has already secondguessed Charlie and ditched his recorder in good time. The Alaska caper is the best reading in the book. I’ll never feel the same about the town of Nome after reading Reisner’s description (it looked like a “large container spill … the world capital of the International Quonset Hut style … the landscape was mildly undulating tundra, without trees to set the limits of sight”). A greater contrast with southern Louisiana is impossible to imagine.

  • The book includes one segment on gator poaching, one on the ivory trade, a third on a lucrative racket in the tasty fish known as sacalait or crappie and a fourth titled “Loss,” which chronicles the escalating disappearance of Louisiana’s freshwater marshes as a result of shortsighted dam building and oil company canals.

Reisner recounts all this in a goodhumored gonzo style laced with the occasional memorable image. One afternoon he is permitted to accompany Hall and another undercover agent as they cruise the Mississippi River with a duck poacher they’re out to snare. The poacher allows as how he’d kill a man if the money was right. “Most of us would,” he insists. “Tell me that ain’t so.” Dave Hall affably agrees. All Reisner could think about at that moment, however, was how he would have liked to take the poacher and “hold his head in duck dung until he had been asphyxiated.”

Donald Dale Jackson lives and writes in the wilds of Connecticut.

Wildlife is wonderful

Introduction

Frank Bascombe, the central character of Richard Ford’s 1986 novel, The Sportswriter, is a middle-aged journalist still reeling from his failed marriage and his abortive career as a fiction writer. As he surveys the disarray of his life, he predicts: “Something will happen. At least we have that to look forward to.” The same tone of hopeful melancholy colors the adolescent struggles of Joe Brinson, the 16-year-old protagonist of Ford’s new novel, Wildlife. “Something’ll happen to make things seem different,” says his mother, Jeanette Brinson, attempting to console her son. In his short stories (Rock Springs) and longer fiction (A Piece of My Heart, The Ultimate Good Luck), Ford repeatedly offers such small consolations in the face of a chaotic universe. The idea of human powerlessness is central to the author’s spare and eloquent new novel. Infused with sadness, the characters in Wildlife are ordinary Americans living unremarkable lives: a golf pro, a swimming teacher, a young boy. But Ford’s themes are universal, and they resonate with a Spartan grandeur.

Against the backdrop of a forest fire burning out of control in the mountains near Great Falls, Mont., Ford has shaped a simple story of a teenage boy whose life comes apart when his father loses his job and his mother falls in love with another man. It is 1960, and Jerry Brinson, chasing the promise of prosperity offered by the western oil boom, has moved his wife and son from Idaho. But when he is fired from his job as a golf instructor, the father joins the men fighting the conflagration that threatens to burn through the fall and winter.

  • The forest fire that grew out of “mysterious causes” becomes a symbol for the relentless forces that shape the characters’ lives. “We don’t have any control over anything here now,” Joe’s father reports in a telephone conversation. “We just watch everything burn.” In the same way, Joe watches helplessly as his mother becomes involved with Warren Miller, a wealthy older man. As she risks the flames of illicit love, Jeanette tells her son, “It’s always just yourself and nothing else.” And her lover, Warren Miller, says, “Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing just to know you’re alive.”

Joe’s parents are in fact exhilarated by their exposure to the chaos of fire and love. But not their son. As Jerry and Jeanette leave behind the suffocating solace of their customary lives, Joe is plunged into confusion. “I wondered if there was some pattern or an order to things in your life,” he says. “Or was everything just happening all the time, in a whirl without anything to stop it or cause it.”

Critics have compared Ford’s laconic prose to that of Ernest Hemingway. The similarities are striking. Like The Old Man and the Sea, Wildlife is less a novel than a long short story. But in contrast to Hemingway’s classic parable, the characters in Ford’s novel do not learn any lessons–even though they continually try to make sense of what is happening to them. And their tendency to formulate simple and startling insights seems at odds with their inability to control their lives.

  • At times, Ford flogs the forest-fire metaphor a little too energetically. Joe’s father returns after three days in the mountains to find his wife poised to leave home. She asks him, “Will the fire ever go out?” And Jerry replies: “It’ll smoke and smoulder on for a long time. It’s hard to put out.”

In the end, nothing is really resolved, and the Brinsons continue to fail blindly. Frustrated and distressed, Jerry decides to take out his anger against Miller. He pours gasoline on the front porch of his rival’s house and sets it on fire, but the flames sputter out without doing much damage. Miller and Jeanette end their brief love affair and, after a period of dislocation, the Brinsons settle back into a tenuous stability.

No longer an innocent, Joe comes to accept his bewilderment about his parents’ lives. “God knows,” he reflects in the book’s last sentence, “there is still much to it that I myself, their only son, cannot fully claim to understand.” More than anything, Wildlife is about coming to terms with a universe where there are no absolutes. Charged with poignancy and pain, it is Richard Ford at his finest.

The manual: wildlife photography

2 Conceal yourself

  • Wear natural colors that blend in with the surroundings: green and brown in spring and summer, beige and tan in fall.
  • Avoid items that rustle when you move and anything shiny (including glasses).
  • Hide behind natural blinds, such as boulders, trees, and bushes. And don’t ignore opportunities on the way to the trailhead. Inwildlife havens like Yellowstone, you’re likely to glimpse all-star animals right from park road. Cars make very effective blinds: Pull completely off of the road ahead of the animal’s direction of travel. Open your window partway and place a jacket Or shirt between the camera and glass for cushioning.

3 Get in position

  • Approach animals slowly, from downwind. You don’t want to startle them–you want them to get used to your presence. (Photographer Kennan Ward swears that turning his tripod upside down when approaching caribou makes him Look Like he has antlers.)
  • Observe the animal’s direction of travel and move to where it will approach you.
  • Keep a safe distance. Yellowstone National Park recommends getting no closer than 25 yards (100 yards for bears). If the animal looks alarmed of retreats, you’re too dose.
  • Practice standard wildlife photography ethics. Don’t chase an animal, make noises to get it to Look at you, or interfere with its normal behavior or routine.

4 SHOOT LIKE A PRO

Zoom Point-and-shoot: Choose a camera with an optical, not digital, zoom of at least 10X for crisp dose-ups. Digital SLR: It’s not just about the focal length (but 80-400mm is a good bet). Also look for a lens with the largest aperture (lowest f/stop) you can afford. This lets you shoot at faster speeds in dim light.

Tripod Use the six- to 10-inch-long, flexible Gorillapod ($20-$50) to steady your camera on logs, trees, and rocks. Or try an adjustable trekking pole with a built-in camera support (such as TrekTech’s TrekPod Go! PRO; $230) for quick stability on the go.

Lighting Get the perfect shot by taking the same photo with several different ISOs (a measure of the camera’s light sensitivity). In dim light, try 400 to 800. Dial back to 100 to 200 in bright light.

Movement Pan your camera with the subject. Adjust shutter speed (1/30 to blur the surroundings and capture a sense of motion, 1/500 and up to stop the action), track the animal as it approaches, press the shutter gently, and continue panning for a few seconds after the shot.

5 COMPOSE THE PERFECT SHOT

Position the animal so it’s gazing toward the center of the photo. Leave “active space” for the subject to look or move into for a more dynamic shot. Exceptions: Center the subject if it’s looking or moving toward you.

Shoot from dawn until 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. until dusk for the best natural light.

Include the environment, but avoid distracting background features (vegetation, boulders) that make the photo look cluttered.

Use the rule of thirds: Imagine three horizontal and three vertical lines across the photo, and position the animal at one of the intersections.

Squat down and photograph animals at their eye level for an intimate feel. “Catchlight” (reflection) in the eyes makes the subject look more alive.

1 Find your prey
Tom Leeson, a wildlife photographer for 35 years, shares his
secrets on getting the perfect shot of these four life-list animals.

ANIMAL              WHERE                           TIP

Bighorn   High, steep slopes.         Frame bighorns with side or
sheep     Hotspot: Rocky Mountain     backlighting to make them pop
          NP, CO                      against alpine terrain.

Moose     Marshy bogs and meadows.    Shoot from a kayak: The low
          Hotspot: Isle Royale NP,    angle makes moose look more
          MI                          dramatic, and you'll likely get
                                      closer than on land.

Bald      Ocean, lake, and river      Use an easy-to-hold telephoto
eagles    shores. Hotspot: Chilkat    lens, increase shutter speed to
          Bald Eagle Preserve, AK     at least 1/500, and track the
                                      eagle as it dives for fish.

Bears     Berry patches, salmon       Underexpose the shot to capture
          streams, and meadows.       a dark bear without blowing out
          Hotspots: Yosemite NP, CA   the background. Shoot twice
          (black): Glacier NP, MT     (at -1/3 and at -2/3) to ensure
          (griz)                      you get the right exposure.