At first glance the story made me chuckle. Then, when I read it more carefully, and had the chance to really think about it, I became outraged. Say the word selfie and you are likely to elicit a smile. But when those selfies involve some of the biggest and most dangerous predators on the planet, things can get serious in a bigtime hurry.
Here’s the gist: Visitors to Lake Tahoe’s Taylor Creek are taking tremendous risks to life and limb in order snap a selfie with a bear. You know a selfie, it’s a picture you take of yourself, oftentimes in front of some interesting backdrop. Well, it seems taking pics of your private parts in the mirror or candid shots of people sleeping has become passé for these self-indulgent shutterbugs and now they have taken the practice to new and destructive extremes. It’s gotten so bad that the National Park Service had to issue a warning against it. I agree. It’s a dumb thing to do, and not just for the obvious reasons.
Social Media To Blame?
It pains me to say this, but because of social media we are witnessing a new type of adrenaline junkie and attention seeker. People are beginning to gauge their self-worth based on how many Facebook likes they get or how many Twitter followers they can amass. Sharing photos and videos and everything else under the sun has become a pastime, something that people just do out of habit now. And it has become a sick race to get the most outrageous, most daring, most idiotic pictures they can get. It will only get worse as the copycat nature surrounding these types of activities gets worse. Someone takes a picture and it goes viral, it’s going to be mimicked over and over. And it won’t stop until someone gets seriously hurt.
Bears Losing Fear of Humans
Go to any wildlife reserve and you will see all kinds of signs and warnings telling people not to feed the bears. There are many good reasons for this, both for the well-being of the bears and the people. Bears become dependent on food handouts. But more importantly, they will also become aggressive towards the source of that food if it doesn’t keep coming. When bears lose their fear of humans and become aggressive, anything can happen and sometimes does. Just this year there have been several stories of hunters being mauled and even eaten by bears. With these selfie-aficionados clogging up the national parks snapping closeups of grizzlies, the death toll is certain to rise.
Gives Real Outdoors Enthusiasts Bad Name
Remember Timothy Treadwell? He was the “Grizzly Man,” the guy who spent 13 summers camping with wild Grizzlies in Alaska until one fateful stormy night when he and his girlfriend were tragically killed by a bear. Despite his valiant efforts to raise awareness about environmental issues and wildlife conservation, Treadwell’s foolish disregard for his own safety was a net loss for the outdoor enthusiast community. Real lovers of the outdoors have a healthy respect for nature and its inhabitants. They know bears are supremely dangerous and treat them as such. When people see others like Treadwell, or these selfie takers, doing unconventional, even crazy things, they want to do them also. This results in a negative stereotype by the public, who lump the behavior from these selfie tourists together with the more discerning activities of hunters and hikers and fishers. It’s unfair to the true adventurers who actually live the outdoors lifestyle.
Bears Will Pay The Price
This is possibly the most disastrous outcome of all. When the first tourist gets hurt or killed by a bear who is merely acting on its own natural instincts, two tragedies will occur. First, the human toll. That’s of course catastrophic, especially if a fatality is involved. The other tragedy will come when the bear in question is dealt with. Almost certainly the bear will be put down, as is the case in almost every similar circumstance. So a bear is minding its own business in its own habitat when a clueless human encroaches on its territory, comes to within a few feet of it and starts acting dumb and the bear is penalized? Again, it’s not fair to the bear or to the people. Our nation’s wildlife deserves better.
Sources: outsideonline.com | abcnews.go.com | yellowstone-bearman.com