The opossum images that i have posted recently have been taken in my garden where i used bait to attract them into position, I have posted these on various forums and there are one or comments about the ethics of baiting, I had this too when i did my fox cub project in Switzerland where a couple of American photographers were very vocal about the baiting issue, They see baiting as a very bad thing, In Europe baiting for fox,badger etc is commonplace and i cant really see anyway to get consistent images of a species than to put bait out in a chosen spot over a period of time, This after all is what you are doing to birds in your garden, Now when i say baiting i mean to use a bait of a certain type and quantity, The type depends on the subject, For fox and badger i tend to use raisins,peanuts and minced dog food and sometimes peanut butter,For deer i use corn and for the opossums and grey fox here i have been putting out the minced dog food, Food needs to be nutritious and put in small amounts,small enough to attract the animal but not enough to feed the animal as after a period the animal will be dependant on the food and that's something we don't want-just a treat and nothing more, I try not to scatter the bait and instead use it to lead the animal to the chosen spot, With the opossums i break the dog food into tiny pieces and leave a trail to the branch, There i squash a few pieces up the branch again leading it upwards where there will be a few bits waiting at the top, I like to use very small bait as the animal will take longer looking for bits and will give you longer to shoot, I squash the pieces at certain heights up the branch exactly where i want it to stop, you will find that if they are happy with the situation when they are at the top then after they have eaten they will relax,sit,clean etc, I like to use tree stumps,branches etc as they have grain and cracks and food can be squashed into these keeping the animal at the site longer for no addition food, For rough bark wet dog food works very well squashed against it, Many years ago in the winter i used some hot chicken stock poured onto the ground and left just some crumbs of dog food,The foxes could smell the chicken stock a long way off and were soon in the area and stayed for sometime, You need to be sure that after you have spent your time with your subject be it a week or 3 months that their lives will continue unchanged and wont be dependant or looking for handouts, i only like to shoot wild animals and not like the foxes in New Jersey that are totally habituated to humans and offer no real photographic challenge, I make sure that the animal doesn't see me, If they are around when i get near the hide/blind then i walk off and don't come back that day so that it doesn't associate me with food the hide, i also make sure that the animals are not around when i leave the hide, This important as they may then associate the hide with humans and danger
Personally, I don't have any major objection to baiting. I concur with the garden bird analogy. I don't think others have good reason to object when the considered fieldcraft you demonstrate clearly has the welfare of the subject as top priority. In any hobby (less so in business) you will get elitist/purist types who frown upon certain techniques to make life that little bit easier. My simple view is that most photographers are ethical and honest, and ultimately will gain little long-term satisfaction from images that stem from little or no effort. This personal judgement depends on the species itself, its rarity and the degree it makes itself available to be seen, amongst others. Over the last week or so, it is clear your oppossum images have been the result of much considered thought, planning and effort in obtaining the images you envisaged. It is fair to say that most quality images take time to organise/plan/co-ordinate. An intelligent approach to obtaining a higher success rate should be admired as smart and not frowned upon.