Since Missoulian editors didn’t have the sense to inform its audience of the ethics behind pictures it printed to illustrate a recent article, this dear reader will perform the service.
The front page on the April 25 Territory section ran an in-house feature, “Wildlife Greetings,” celebrating human-wildlife encounters at Glacier National Park, with three prominent archival photos showcasing exactly the kind of human behavior that our national parks have spent recent decades trying to eradicate. Though no food is shown, the deer, the bears and the marmot depicted were all habituated to receiving human food. That is why these animals are practically climbing into the laps of the people they interact with. Neither the photo captions nor the entire article bothered to comment.
Meanwhile, as any park ranger will inform, wildlife habituated to human handouts very often become sick, malnourished or “problem” animals that attack other humans and end up terminated.
Metaphorically, the photos were junk food printed to attract readers, because running those “cute” pix without full context was its own ethical choice.
In showcasing an article that purports to celebrate the wildlife of Glacier National Park during its centennial, the Missoulian not only missed an opportunity to further educate readers with its in-house feature, the paper has helped perpetuate old sins. Unfortunately, wildlife is still fed in our parks today, all for the sake of ego and a “cute” photograph.
Ron Scholl, Missoula