In The Wild With Team Husar; A Cause Served With Great Images

With compassion and empathy for our wildlife, Lisa and Mike Husar of Wisconsin are dedicated to educating us all about the importance of earth's wild creatures. Whether it is zebras at a watering hole in Kenya, a mother panda and her cub in China, or a polar bear with her triplets in Canada, photographing animals around the world has become their passion.

Common Zebra
Zebra pair drinking at a watering hole. (Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.)
All Photos © 2007, Lisa & Mike Husar/, All Rights Reserved

Gracing the cover of the 2006-'07 National Wildlife Federation calendar, a tiny owl photographed by Lisa grabbed my attention. The little guy, only about 6" long, lives at a wildlife rehab center, as he has a permanent injury and cannot fly. He is also an ambassador who goes out on educational programs that help people learn about wildlife.

A combination of her love for animals and a passion for photography lay behind her husband taking her on a trip to Yellowstone in 1993. Mike, a long-time photographer himself, encouraged her to "go for it!" He would remain in his jewelry business while Lisa set out to turn a profit in the field of wildlife photography, and would join her whenever he could.

Northern saw-whet perched in a pine tree. (Wisconsin.)

Today Team Husar is among the most prominent producers of wildlife images and is regularly featured in publications by World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and National Wildlife Federation as well as in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

"The intrigue and romance of traveling the world and photographing animals in the wild, though appealing, is a hard job, an expensive one and one that takes incredible patience and luck," Lisa says. "I don't always have a lot of control over the situation. Being at the right place at the right time, always at the mercy of the weather, and lugging around a tripod and a series of long lenses while hoping that the animal you choose to photograph will be cooperative, makes it all come together.

"You get some great shots and come home feeling good, but more often there's the frustration and you only get a couple of good shots or it can be a stinker of a trip when someone tells you, `You should have been here last week. The moose were in the pool, standing and doing a dance. This week there are no moose!'

Bull Moose
Bull moose eating grass in a pond. (Moosehead Lake, Maine.)

"The more you study and photograph animals," she advises, "the more you are able to read their behavior. You want to know when that animal is stressed and that you are not causing the stress."

This is not a wild guess, by the way. The photographer should be aware of the posturing and the movement of an animal and note when it is relaxed and minding its own business. When they begin to look stressed it's time to pack up your gear.
"Many times animals are as curious about us as we are about them," Lisa says, "and a polar bear will often come right up to our buggy to get a look at us and the funny stuff we are carrying."

One of my favorite shots shows her holding a sizable young panda in her arms. "There's something special about pandas," Lisa says. "They have a teddy bear look about them, an appeal. Pandas have a false thumb and hold the bamboo in their hands and when they eat they often sit up like we do and it gives them a human quality. Zoos in Washington, DC, San Diego, Atlanta, and Memphis rent pandas from China at a cost of about one million dollars a year--add to that a high maintenance fee for each panda. All of the money goes into panda conservation." The Husars belong to the organization of Pandas International that raises funds for research and education.

Adolescent Panda
Adolescent panda eating bamboo near a river. (Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China.)

Big cats like mountain lions are almost impossible to photograph in the wild and most of the gray wolves that Team Husar photograph are born and raised in captivity. Lisa is quick to add that it is rare that animals will attack unless they are starving and a wolf attack is unheard of. "It is just not their normal behavior to attack humans," she says.