Conventional wisdom suggests that upon sighting a wild animal in its natural environment, the average person should not rush toward it with the intention of taking a photograph together. Of course, in these days of social networking and instant electronic photo-sharing capabilities, there’s not much left of convention—or wisdom, for that matter.
That’s why an office of the U.S. Forest Service was compelled this week to issue an official statement suggesting that using smartphones to take “selfies” while black bears congregate to feed on migrating kokanee salmon in Northern California mountain streams might be a bad idea.
Really? Do ya think?
The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit reports that Taylor Creek Center in South Lake Tahoe, California, has become the annual site of a spectacular annual run of kokanee salmon, which has become a major seasonal tourist attraction. The proliferation of big fish is also a major draw for the region’s large population of black bears, notoriously quite hungry this time of year as they prepare for winter hibernation.
Black bears are not normally an aggressive species like their grizzly and brown bear cousins, but they might attack humans if they’re threatened. Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman Management Unit, said she has fielded reports of tourists wielding their smartphone cameras and rushing up to the animals to take bear selfies. Last week one person was reportedly charged by a bear.
“We’ve had reports of mobs of people, who, once they see the bear, rush up to it and try to get a picture or video,” Herron told the Reno Journal-Gazette. “That’s the problem. Bears are wild, unpredictable animals. They don’t look like they can move very fast, but they actually can.”
In addition to bear selfies, Herron said motorists are stopping along California State Route 89 and running across the highway to get a closer look at the animals. They’re also charging off trails, through the forest and even over the creek to get closer to the hungry bears, she said.
“We are telling people they need to stay on the trails and they need to stay away form the bears,” she said. “If a bear has a mind to, it can run very fast.”
Um … yeah.