Palmer says it is possible to make great films honestly, "But it takes a lot of creativity, a lot of hard work."
Nature filmmakers say their films won't work without helping viewers connect with the animals, a trick often achieved by naming them, as Palmer's film had named "Misty" and "Echo."
"It is easier to care about animals if you name them and there is a big debate in science," said Palmer. "Jane Goodall named her chimps and she was criticized, but look at the incredible good she has done.
When filmmakers resort to faking scenes, it is typically done in service of helping viewers to care about the animals and the environment. The desired result is to inspire awe, even love, for the animals, and to make viewers take the side of the animals.
And that is why Palmer makes films about wildlife, he said. He wants viewers to develop respect and understanding for wildlife.
In his "Bears" film, some of the animals were trucked to the location where the film was shot.
"They are behaving under the instruction of a trainer," said Palmer. "The trainer is making sounds, they are trained through being fed and rewarded with M&M's and food."
And while the actor bears helped filmmakers create compelling cinema, there may be consequences. "The trouble is that you send a signal to the viewers that it is OK to get this close to bears and that is not a good signal to send."
Palmer's ambivalence runs deep. He is keenly aware that his deceptions have made people care and he sees a greater good in that.
"I make films in order to change something in society, and in this particular case, making us more environmentally aware, making us more environmentally responsible," he said.
"Maybe it is worth it to have told the lie," he said. On the other hand, he worries, maybe those rented animals are not treated well on the game farm. And, he wonders aloud, what happens to them after their turn in front of the camera is over?