Communing with Wildlife

Last evening, the PBS series Nature aired the personal story of a Wyoming rancher who became closely involved with a herd of mule deer, naming them, interacting with them and, as is typical on such Disneyesque programs, rescuing an orphaned fawn.  Factual information about the mule deer was intermixed with the emotional reactions of the narrator to their trials and tribulations; in the end, it was more about the rancher than the deer.

Many viewers might be fascinated and entertained by this form of programming but, in my opinion, it sends an inappropriate message to the general public.  While it is important to learn about the behavior of our wild neighbors and to make every effort to ensure that they have adequate natural habitat, the decision to become closely involved with their social groups encourages their tolerance of human presence.  Such a close alliance is dangerous for the wildlife and, in some cases, for the humans as well; most of us remember the young man who took up residence with grizzlies and, in the process, lost his life.

Our respect for wildlife is best demonstrated by observing and studying them from a safe and nonthreatening distance.  To become intimately involved with their daily lives, especially with the goal of producing a film, runs contrary to the conservation ethic.  For Nature, a well respected series, to foster such documentaries is both unfortunate and counterproductive.