Two years ago our English language changed forever when the word selfie became official in the dictionary. A self-taken photograph of oneself, selfies have become commonplace with the spread of smartphones in society. Apps and social media sites such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and selfie sticks have instigated this phenomenon, changing the world as we know it.
The selfie game is evolving, and it has come with a price. Recently selfie takers have taken the selfie game to a whole new level with BearSelfies. Yes, they are what they sound like. There has been an increasing trend to get close to bears and take selfies with them, hence the word BearSelfie. This is a real problem folks. Recently, Waterton Canyon, a hiking and recreational area near Denver closed because too many hikers, the really smart ones, are attempting BearSelfies. “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,” said Brandon Ransom, Denver Water’s manager of recreation.
Waterton Canyon is not the only place faced with happy go lucky hikers trying to get a selfie really close to wildlife. Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe park, Glacier, and countless other national parks and areas with wildlife are now faced with similar problems. Yellowstone alone has at least half a dozen visitors each year get charged and injured by bison because they were trying to get close to snap a selfie with the animal. Warnings do not really seem to work with this breed of selfie takers. Even so, it may be wise to do away with the warnings and let natural selection work itself out.
I think Waterton Canyon’s closing is a wake up call to everyone who values National Parks, Wilderness Areas, and outdoor recreational areas with wildlife. Because of other’s ignorance, others now can’t enjoy the park. Hopefully this is not a precedent for other parks and areas to close. Some serious education about wildlife photography needs to happen for these brainiac tourists and hikers.
If you would like some break from studying and some entertainment, just Google BearSelfie, and I promise you will not be disappointed. The ridiculousness of people’s proximity to bears and other wildlife causes no wonder some people get attacked and injured. Parks should not have to close because of these people. These are often the type of people who travel in large groups, walk off of the path, litter, and generally don’t respect the environment. If caught for such things as littering, not respecting wildlife, etc., I suggest stiffer penalties and bans on these people from the natural places we are trying to protect and preserve, and not closing the places because of them. For places like parks and hiking areas to be sustainable, there can’t be the thousands of visitors who are uneducated going to these places and feeding wildlife, getting too close to wildlife, trampling plants off trail, and hurting the environment in other ways.
Yellowstone alone has over 3 million visitors a year. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has over 250,000 per year. With so many visitors to national parks and wilderness areas, it can be hard to achieve a sustainable way of accommodating everyone when so many people are not following the rules, guidelines, and common sense about how to respect a place. That is why I think stiffer penalties and punishments should be enforced when people are caught blatantly disturbing wildlife and the environment. Increased education about how to make minimum impacts in such areas as wilderness and parks should also occur and be encouraged before entering these areas and in school systems. Natural areas cannot be sustained if they are kept on being exposed to these types of people with little to no awareness on their environmental impacts.
Written by John Kurtz, ESLLC 2015-2016