First #tigerselfies, now this? The U.S. Forest Service issued a statement last week warning visitors to stop taking selfies with bears (?!) at Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe, California. Yes, really — people are taking the selfie game to a whole other level, this time not with the drug-addled, mistreated big cats, but with wild black bears that can sprint up to 35mph, are great swimmers and tree climbers, and average at 300 pounds, according to the Forest Reserve.
"Bears are unpredictable, wild animals and may attack if threatened,” said Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson in the statement. “We can’t have visitors creating dangerous situations for themselves and others. People are risking serious injury or death if they get too close to a bear.”
These large, typically shy animals will usually stay away from humans, as most wildlife tend to do (unless hungry). But when approached, bears might feel threatened, because hey, not only do are we on their turf, but by getting so close we're also invading their personal space.
Getting so close to bears also puts them at risk, said the statement, because they may be captured and killed if it attacks. It also cautioned that should visitors refuse to comply with the request, they may close off Taylor Creek to everyone. What's that idiom about a few bad apples again?
However, this #bearselfie trend isn't only happening in Lake Tahoe, it's happening in a lot of places — pretty much anywhere in North America where humans are allowed on bear property (see: forests; forest reserves), I'd venture to say.
Lisa Herron, a spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that people are so eager to be pictures with wild bears that:
We've had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a 'selfie' photo.
Which not only sounds really foolish, but also is in complete disregard to the natural habitat of a wild animal.
In August this year, a woman was attacked trying to feed a black bear in her backyard, and was charged for illegally feeding wildlife. Authorities said that feeding wild animals make them lose their natural fear for humans, thus exposing them to human contact and a whole assortment of dangers for both the animal and the person.
Herron also told the local paper that while no bear-related injuries have been reported yet, she said she had heard of one instance when a bear charged at a group.
But if you must join the #bearselfie trend, take heart in the fact that Smokey will always have your back:
Images: Rich Pedroncelli/AP; jentwen, tjwisco22, Dylan Wall/Instagram