The topic of baiting has become a hot and controversial subject.  What is baiting you might ask, some wildlife photographers are using live mice to get Owls to fly out of the tree and towards the camera.  Others are using salt licks, to get deer into an open area and close to their blinds.  Cat food or cans of tuna to get Bob Cat shots.

When I started shooting eagles 4 seasons ago, I learn that some people are throwing fish filled with air for the eagles. As a new eagle photographer, I actually appreciated the bait fish.  Since then, I have thousands of full fame wall hanger quality Eagle photos without bait fish!

Today there was 2 different people at Lock and Dam 14 throwing fish.  I am torn!  The action was hot and NON-stop, but they were mostly baited.  If they hadn’t been throwing fish, I feel there would have been just as much action, it just brings the action closer.  I have been there for entire days and seen just as many eagles catch their own fish.

I would really like to see some open dialog on your thoughts on this topic!

Putting corn out for the squirrels, sunflower seeds for the cardinals, or even nectar in hummingbird feeders, all seem like the public is OK with that.

Feeding wild bears, cat food for Bobcats, bait piles of road kill for coyotes,,, not so much!

So, where do fish for eagles fall?  Where do you draw the line?

Mice for owls?  Trying to decide if I am going to breakdown and try mice tomorrow to get close to the Snowy Owls I found today.

Ready set debate!

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23 thoughts on “Baiting

  1. I feel that as long as it is legal then it’s ok. However, in the state of IDNR hunting & trapping digest it states that baiting is illegal. There’s your answer. The people throwing fish are breaking the law in Illinois. By not reporting it you are now breaking the law as well.

    • Thank goodness I was in Iowa. It is legal, as long as it is a native fish. Remember, they aren’t hunting they are feeding wildlife to get photos. Baiting for hunting is illegal.

      • Well it’s not just baiting for hunting. It states baiting or feeding of wild animals. Growing a food plot is not against the law tho (explain that one). I’m not familiar with Iowa law. If you’re in IL I would stay away from it.

        • You are correct! and $1000.00 fine, guess I have made up my mind about using mice tomorrow for Owls.

          Section 635.40 Feeding or Baiting of Wildlife
          It shall be illegal to make available food, salt, mineral blocks or other products for ingestion by wild
          deer or other wildlife in areas where wild deer are present. Exempted from this Section are the
          a) elevated bird/squirrel feeders providing seed, grain, fruit, worms, or suet for birds or
          squirrels located within 100 feet of a dwelling devoted to human occupancy;
          b) incidental feeding of wildlife within active livestock operations;
          c) feeding of wild animals, other than wild deer, by hand as long as a reasonable attempt
          is made to clean up unconsumed food;
          d) feeders for wildlife other than deer so long as deer are excluded from the feed in and
          around the feeder by fencing or other barriers;
          e) standing crops planted and left standing as food plots for wildlife;
          f) grain or other feed scattered or distributed solely as a result of normal agricultural,
          gardening, or soil stabilization practices;
          g) standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation or food/seed deposited by
          natural vegetation;
          h) grain or other feed distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an
          agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, for purposes of dove
          I) food material placed for capturing or killing wildlife pursuant to 520 ILCS 5/2.37,
          2.30, and 1.3;
          j) scientific permits issued pursuant to 17 Ill. Adm. Code 520 that allow food to attract
          k) any other permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources that require the
          attraction of wildlife for purposes of management, research or control.DECEMBER 4, 2003 17 ILL. ADM. CODE CH, I, SEC. 635
          Section 635.50 Penalties
          Violation of the provisions of this Part is a Petty Offense with a maximum fine of $1,000.

  2. I personally do not think baiting is appropriate and have actually left lock and dam 14 twice when the photography clubs come with the buckets of fish. There is plenty of action without it, and I would rather catch the money shot on my own.

    I also think it’s unsafe for the eagles, as they can quickly become dependent on the ease of the catch. I’d rather see them hone in on a fish with their own skills and natural radar.

    As for owls…again, I’d rather see the real thing and know that I caught the shot while scoping out the animal and watching it…waiting patiently…sometimes for hours. Let nature be nature, let it do it’s own thing.

  3. Thanks for the un-emotional debate. As you can tell from the different citings of law, the state laws can seem to be ambiguous. While baiting can be equated to feeding, there seems to be differing opinions on what could be a harmful result to wildlife: “conditioning” the wildlife to man, or putting them in situations that decrease their chances for survival. This can mean developing a “dependency” on man for food, or frequenting roadsides ( increased chance of getting hit by cars, etc.), or somehow the food is tainted (how do you know the mouse/fish doesn’t carry some disease/parasite that is harmful to the owl/eagle ?), or introducing a species/or parasite ( fish can’t be brought in from outside the area, pet shop mice are not native… will they survive/escape to reproduce in the wild ? )

    Another aspect to baiting is using recorded calls. Since certain birds are known to be very aggressive in defending their territory, playing a recording can flush out an otherwise hidden bird, very quickly. That is why a lot of bird sanctuaries prohibit tape recordings, if not entirely, at least during nesting season. The viewpoint is that the wasted effort to defend a territory against the “artificial” rival, reduces the real birds chances to successfully produce offspring.

    So, be aware of the law, & decide whether you think the risk to wildlife is significantly detrimental. Since I don’t own a super zoom lens, I appreciate the fish being fed to the Eagles at L & D 14. I have gotten some shots that would not have been possible otherwise.

  4. a couple more interesting angles / articles on this topic.

    I wonder if the wildlife purest out there that want No human intervention would be upset that Teske’s delivered a bale of straw close to Alcoa nest this morning so the eagles could tuck in their egg before tonight’s -9 with windchills to 20 to 30 below. Thank you Judy for making the call and Teske’s for the delivery. The eagles immediately began to pad their nest. All is well at Alcoa.

    Thanks Gloria!

    • The wildlife purests aren’t saying there should never be human intervention…but to throw fish out to an eagle to get a good shot is just wrong in my opinion. It’s not human intervention, it’s purely entertainment and the desire to get the “money shot”. And before anyone says “well what are eagle cams then?” They may be entertaining for us but they are research projects that the owners of those cams choose to put online for everyone’s entertainment.

  5. Thanks again to everyone who have kept this as a mature, non-emotional issue. You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine. With your help, I am still making up my mind. I have tried to research out some facts. Specifically, how feeding/baiting wild animals somehow pre-conditions them in such a way that they forget how to hunt for food “naturally”. Or how we have somehow “lowered their chance for survival” by feeding/baiting them. So far, the experts that I know, say they are un-aware of a paper published on these topics. Anyone out there have any other sources ? I have talked previously with a Falconer, who released his red-tail hawk after many years of “stewarding” it. It successfully returned to supporting itself by hunting naturally. Only one example, but I haven’t found any facts/studies published that indicate that feeding/baiting wildlife sets them up for starvation after the un-natural supply of food is no longer supplied.

    • It’s been interesting to read the responses & thoughts on this topic! For me personally I think that as long as things are within the boundaries of law, all is well. I’ve hunted over bait & without. I’ve had success both ways. I do feel that if baiting is done it is best that the animals not see a human provide the food. Take for instance bears in our national parks- prime example of animals associating food with people. We all know how that can end. Is it the same with other animals? I don’t know but I feel it will. Just my thoughts

    • I was just about to recommend that article, which can be found on Hancock wildlife foundation’s Facebook page. I believe it was just posted today.

  6. If you have/haven’t read HancockWildlifeOrg article as mentioned above: I would like to summarize by quoting David Hancock directly: “… Do I prefer people feeding owls to shooting them? You bet! Do I think humans have degraded most wild habitats so the wild supports less diversity and wildlife numbers? You bet! Does some well intentioned human intervention like back yard feeders or even human activities with some associated benefit, like encouraging owls by feeding them, have some potential down sides? Maybe occasionally! The downsides are isolated, rare and in the big picture largely meaningless.” Unfortunately, Mr. Hancock expressed an opinion, again without the benefit of statistics, but I do value his insight.

  7. Baiting – Some places it is illegal and some places it is not, Some people will be very against it and some will not, Some people will find quotes and facts to their side and others will also find quotes and facts to the contrary.

    For me it comes down to this. When the photo is take no one looking at your photo will know if it was baited or not. Only you will know and that is all that matters. For me it would take away from my accomplishment if I knew it was baited. But then again that is only me.

    Happy shooting – non-lethally that is : )

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