Photographs of fake mountain lions angers at least one reader of
By Shannon Canton
Lynn Sadler studied Discover Magazine, trying to figure out what was
wrong with the photographs of mountain lions in the June 2001 issue. The
photographer seemed so close to the wild animals. How did he get those
pictures? Then, she realized it was a stuffed lion, the same stuffed
animal in each of the four photographs.
Sadler and fellow outraged mountain lion advocates claim the article
"Is that a Mountain Lion in Your Backyard?" and the accompanying
photographs put mountain lions in a false light. The article says
mountain lions appear to be venturing from their homes in the wild and
into more populous areas.
In one photograph, a mountain lion approaches a person on horseback.
"They're trying to say that mountain lions are becoming much bolder,
attacking in broad daylight, and that people on horseback should be
careful," Sadler says.
Though interesting, says Sadler, executive director of the Mountain
Lion Foundation in California, the article encourages fear and hatred of
the animal she works to preserve. The science magazine failed to place
the risks of attack in context, she says. But the photographs anger her
Burkhard Bilger, a Discover Magazine senior editor, concedes the
photographs really are of a stuffed lion. But they're representative of
the work photographer Richard Ross does, Bilger says, which includes
"dioramic-style photographs of stuffed animals deliberately meant to
look artificial." It was meant to be more interesting than regular stock
Sadler is "accusing us of faking photos as if we're deceiving
readers," Bilger says. "But it's not true. They're simply pictures of a
mountain lion in a landscape."
The article was thoroughly fact-checked, he adds, but if anyone
points out mistakes, he'll run a correction.
Sadler thinks Discover should have published a disclaimer with the
June article telling readers that the photographs were staged. Since the
magazine didn't do that, she wants an article of equal prominence to set
the record straight.
That's unlikely, Bilger says. "I don't think it's an inaccurate
article, so there's no record to set straight."
Edited by Lori Robertson