Park Rangers Are Having to Tell People to Stop Taking Selfies With Bears

Visitors to Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., are rushing the animals to get photos for their social media feeds.

(Photo: Lauren Wade)

Oct 27, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

This summer a thread popped up over on Reddit in which members of that community can share their best “pics or it didn’t happen” story. For anybody who hopes to contribute a tale and image from that one time he or she took a trip to the Sierra Nevada and saw a bear, the U.S. Forest Service has a word of advice: Cut out the selfies with the wild animals because, well, the creatures are pretty dangerous.

“We’ve had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a selfie photo,” Lisa Herron, spokeswoman for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

This time of year, both hikers and bears are gathering around Taylor Creek in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., for the kokanee salmon run. Apparently, the people assembling in the area have forgotten that the hungry bears that come to the creek for the fish are not cute one-month-old cubs running through Rite Aids in Oregon.

You’d think folks wouldn’t need to be told, but bears are unpredictable animals that come equipped with powerful jaws and sharp claws. While the large mammals don’t usually attack unless provoked, a horde of people running with their smartphones could scare even the calmest beast.

Maybe these bear-selfie fanatics have never seen that terrifying episode of Little House on the Prairie in which Mr. Edwards gets attacked by a bear—or maybe they’ve never read about how encroaching on the animals’ habitat does damage to our entire ecosystem.

Perhaps the problem is that knowing when (or if) it’s appropriate to take a selfie seems to be an issue for too many Americans. In July, a teen was criticized for taking pics at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Earlier this month, actor Kirsten Dunst called for people to put their cameras away and live in the moment. You know, look at the bear from a safe distance instead of trying to capture pictures of it for Instagram and other social media platforms.

“It is presenting a safety issue,” said Herron of hikers’ behavior. “We are afraid someone is going to get attacked.” Herron remarked that she heard about one bear that charged some people, but they managed to run before the creature could take a swipe at them. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is threatening to shut down the area around the creek if people can’t resist the temptation to snap photos with a bear in the background.