Colorado's Waterton Canyon park has bears, and those bears have a problem: hikers wielding selfie sticks.
“We’ve actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as close to the bears as possible, sometimes within 10 feet of wild bears,” Brandon Ransom, manager of recreation of Denver Water, the public utility that maintains the park, said in blog post. “The current situation is not conducive for the safety of our visitors or the well-being of the wildlife.”
Public access to the park has been shut off since Aug. 28, and the utility has not said when it might reopen. At the time of the closure, two mother bears, which are notoriously protective, were foraging with a pair of cubs in the canyon and a cyclist had just been chased by a bear, according to Denver Water.
But Waterton Canyon isn't the only park that has raised alarms about hikers with overeager photography habits. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service chided visitors of a park around Lake Tahoe for overbearing behavior during salmon spawning season.
"Visitor center staff routinely encounter unsafe situations as guests ignore their instructions and get too close to bears to take photos and videos," the agency said in a statement last October. "If visitors continue to disregard directions to stay away from bears at Taylor Creek, the Forest Service may close the area for public safety."
Bears rarely attack humans, and when they do, it often costs the bear its own life. But the first rule of successfully encountering a bear in the wilderness is to not stick around long enough for it to escalate into a bear attack, which is probably why the National Park Service recommends keeping your distance.
If the bear has noticed you, the agency suggests a number of strategies, including slowly moving away from the bear, trying to appear as large as possible and avoiding high-pitched screams. But don't try to distract the animal while adjusting your Instagram filters.
Really, it's just a good rule of thumb to not get too close to any potentially dangerous wild animals in a quest for selfie glory.
In July, a woman was gored by a wild bison in Yellowstone National Park after stopping to take a selfie with the beast and her 6-year-old daughter. At the time, it was the fifth bison attack of the year in the park -- and the third involving tourists trying to take photos with the animals.
Grisly examples of photo ops gone wrong aside, the people aiming to get a good shot are arguably part of a tradition that far predates the Instagram age. Humans have tried to capture the essence of wildlife since cave paintings -- it's just that the rise of image sharing online has made that instinct easier than ever to act on and share.
But selfie seekers should still keep safety in mind when trying to get that perfect snap, even if it's part of some primal calling to commune with the natural world. Or they could take President Obama's route and go for a different kind of #bearselfie.