Conventional wisdom stipulates that upon seeing a wild bear, one should not go near said bear. One should also avoid taking a picture of oneself with said bear.
Visitors to Lake Tahoe this month laugh in the face of conventional wisdom, though. The number of visitors attempting to take selfies with bears in the area has caused the U.S. Forest Service to issue a statement requesting that visitors keep a safe distance from the animals.
“People have been rushing up to the bears to take selfies and videos with them,” Lisa Herron, a public affairs officer for the Lake Tahoe Basin, told Mashable. “A bear will come and whole mobs of people will charge up to them to take photos.”
Each October, salmon swim upstream through the Taylor Creek area to spawn. Herron explains that bears have learned the behavior of the salmon and come to the area to feed. So, if we’re keeping score: Salmon come to reproduce, bears come to eat and humans come to take selfies.
“We did have somebody tell our staff that a bear had charged someone recently,” Herron recalled. “Black bears seem big and lumbering, but they’re very, very fast.”
Herron added that people even run across area highways to take photos of bears on the side of the road. The park visitor center closes at the end of October each year, which Herron hopes will alleviate some of the problem. The Forest Service may close the area for public safety if the issue persists.
On August 5, a Lake Tahoe woman was attacked by a black bear in her backyard after illegally feeding the animals. She was treated for bite wounds to her shoulder and authorities are considering whether or not to press charges, as they’d allegedly been warning the woman to stop feeding bears since 2010.
“We just want to remind people to stay on the trails and respect the wildlife. If you encounter a bear, it’s best to back away slowly to another area,” says Herron.
We searched for some of the alleged Lake Tahoe bear selfies and found that the issue is an international one; visitors to parks and forest lands across the country and into Canada are posting their bear selfies on social media.