Walkin' With the Wild Woman

Come go for walk with the Wild Woman and see what you will find .....

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rare Sightings - Don't Ask; Don't Tell

Yet once again the miracles of modern technology have created a thorny issue for us. Yesterday I posted about how there seems to be some animosity at times between birders and photographers. I think modern technology's ability to rapidly disseminate information  plays a part in this.

It's very common now when a rare bird, plant, animal etc is sighted or found  that the news whips across the planet like a wildfire fuel by a strong wind.

Reminds me a bit of a currently popular commercial - "that's so 17 seconds ago" .

Go ahead - just try to get a shroomer to give a secret spot

However great the information networks can be, and yes I've used them to gain some great photo opportunities - I have to wonder if this actually a good system.

Many times I've been given access to private property to photograph a rare plant. bird, animal etc but only with the caveat "Please don't reveal the location" . Too often once the word gets out the property is inundated with people hoping for a view or a photo - to the point that some property owners have  resorted to hanging up crime scene / caution tape to keep people out. Not to mention the added burden of too much traffic on rural roads often ill equipped to handle the hordes of  people that pour in hoping for glimpse. .

Which leads me to the question - are we doing a service or disservice by disseminating this information? While on the one hand I'm all for people having an opportunity to see something rare in nature, the problem is that once the information is out, there's no way to control who's hand it falls into.

And trust me it can fall into hands who don't fully understand the  ethical  pieces of rare and endangered species.

Case in point; a USFWS manager alerted me to some very rare orchids he had found growing in one of the National Forests where he works - please, he pleaded with me - do not disclose the location. Publicize this very carefully and thoughtfully. He had  seen the damage done when some thing like this gets out to the masses. While posted at different location a similar situation  arose, the media pounced on this rarity, and within a week  the area had been decimated by well meaning and curious  folks. Too many foot prints, too many footprints from people who didn't understand how delicate an eco system can be. 

Normally I don't post a rare find with much more than a county as an identifying location. I tend to guard the rare sightings, in an effort to guard the delicate  balance that brought the rarity to an area to begin with.  I will share with a trusted circle of friends and colleagues; those people who I've come to know well enough to know that they will uphold all rules, regulations, and work  in a capacity to protect and preserve the rare sighting.  Does this make me greedy and  mean spirited or conservationist? Frankly I'm not sure.

I'm curious to hear YOUR views on this. How do you feel about the sharing of locations - right down to GPS coordinates of a rare or unusual sighting? Is it a good thing- enabling more people to have a chance to view said rarity, or is it detrimental? I welcome your opinion!


I have to admit, every time I blog about fishing in a certain location, I wonder if I am doing more harm than good. I love to encourage people to get out and fish, and I feel a good way to do that is to share locations and techniques. However, does that information mean more people end up fishing that location, increasing the pressure, and possibly taking more than the ecosystem can give? I don't think I have a big enough impact to make that happen, but I do keep the most fragile fishing spots to myself.

In the situations you are describing (and I think you're very lucky to get access to many of these rare sights), I agree with your practice of not providing detailed information. Too much harm can come from allowing everyone to see the rare sighting in person. A photograph or blog post is the best way to share such information.
Thanks for bringing up the dilemma of fishing/hunting areas! That's also a big piece of this with today's technology. As well as photos that are geotagged (ugh! don't even get me started on THAT) - I've seen it get down right ugly when folks find a favorite "secret spot" posted on a forum or blog. It's a fine line and one I'm never sure about. Share or don't share? I try to share enough info that someone who is truly serious or might know the area can after a fashion figure it out, but if it's a very delicate ecosystem or species.. county is all you are getting out of this ol gal ;) Thanks again for your input!
I say keep it to quiet and for those who you trust~ Some of my families favorite spots have been  destroyed by people who are too lazy to go out and discover things for themselves.~  It does not make you mean spirited at all~ I used to share, because I wanted to be nice~ but any more I wait until I have learned a little about the people in question before I will even mention areas that I am fond of~ I wait until I know if they will respect it and tread softly or not
Stacey- it was some unfortunate "lessons" such as you described that have made me very careful how I share information. I have to really trust someone anymore to take them to or tell them how to find something special and rare.

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