Please, stop taking selfies with bears. That’s the message that the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to tell visitors at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe.
The creek is the site of a spectacular annual run of kokanee salmon, which also attracts hungry bears
And lately it’s also attracting lots of smart phone-wielding photographers desperate for unique social media profile photos.
“We’ve had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a ‘selfie’ photo,” said Lisa Herron, spokeswoman for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
The problem is getting bad enough that officials are threatening to close down the area if that’s what it takes to keep careless people away from dangerous wildlife.
“It is very possible, yes,” Herron said. “It is presenting a safety issue. We are afraid someone is going to get attacked.”
Bear attacks on people are extremely rare. But people hassling the animals in their natural habitat increases the likelihood of danger. Herron said she heard one report of a bear charging a group. But no injuries were reported, she said.
In addition to bear selfies, Herron said people are stopping their cars 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.”