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As many of you already know some of the best places for capturing wild life images are our national and state parks and refuge systems. The animals at these locations are protected and in most cases in their natural habitat. Access is usually inexpensive, as opposed to “theme parks” that are outrageously priced and the animals are not in their own environment.
However, if you visit these parks and refuge areas on a regular basis it can get expensive. The solution to the national parks is a simple one, BUY A DUCK STAMP from the Federal Duck Stamp Office. This allows one access to all kinds of federal lands where, you as a photographer, can go in and capture wildlife images to your heart’s content for a mere $17 and change including taxes. One can purchase the stamps on line, at hunting and fishing stores, even at Wal-Mart.
The online URL is: http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/
The money collected from the stamps goes right back into the preservation of and purchase of additional lands for the protection of the wildlife and the recreation of the visitors. The stamp is good for one year from June to June. So now is the time to purchase next year’s stamp, which reminds me.
On the Florida side of this equation is the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Recreation. They have a similar program which if you access the state park system on a regular basis is worth the money. Their cost is a little higher, but well worth the investment, at about $80 for an individual pass and $120 for the family plan for one year as well. You can purchase passes at your local park or online.
For a list of Florida parks try this URL: http://www.floridastateparks.org/findapark/district-all.cfm
From there you can get additional information on parks near where you live or where you are going to be traveling near. They provide specific information on activities available including camping and lodging if available.
I always purchase a pass to both systems and always feel like I got my money’s worth. The rangers and volunteers at these facilities are always helpful and knowledgeable about the wildlife in their facilities. For those of you in other states, check with your state’s parks department to see what is available for you.
So take a walk on the wild side and don’t forget to bring plenty of water and bug spray and remember: only to leave foot prints behind. Oh and just because these critters are in a protected refuge does not mean that they are tame, they are in their natural habitat and are wild and potentially dangerous, so don’t try to pet or feed them, or you may become their next meal…