Let me paint a picture for you...
You've decided to spend your weekend exploring one of our beautiful National Parks. It's teeming with fascinating wildlife, has beautiful views in every direction, and the weather is perfect. You come across a serene meadow. A mountain breeze creates waves in the knee-high grass. As you admire the idyllic scenery, something catches your eye. You focus your attention on movement in the brush and realize it's a bear! Excitedly, you take out your camera in an attempt to take a picture of this amazing creature. You watch from afar as it rolls on the ground, seemingly unbothered by your presence. You take a few pictures then continue to observe as it plays with a pinecone. Other park visitors begin watching the bear with you. They, too, take out their cameras and phones and begin snapping pictures. The bear continues to enjoy its pinecone when suddenly one of the tourists begins walking into the field toward the bear. The bear takes quick notice and stands on its hind legs. The tourist doesn't seem to care as she holds her phone out in front of her, trying to get as close as she can. She stops briefly to yell something to her family who stand a few feet from you. Two more tourists run out in the field after her. Others begin to yell. You realize in horror that they are not trying to discourage anyone from approaching the bear, but that they are yelling AT the bear. Half a dozen tourists are now waddling hurriedly into the field, phones and cameras in their outstretched arms, in pursuit of the bear who is running as fast as it can to escape. Luckily, it disappears into the trees, the tourists give up their chase, and return, red-faced and disappointed, to their vehicles. A new family approaches you and asks what all the commotion is. You tell them. They realize they have missed their opportunity to see it and walk away. Gradually all the tourists leave the meadow and you're alone. The bear does not return.
This is a real scenario that I experienced. I have witnessed countless tourists behave like they're in a petting zoo. The worst experience happened a few years ago when I watched a father lead his four young children into a field where a bear was trying to cross. They had to climb a steep embankment to enter the field and when they got too close the bear began to run. Too many people had surrounded the bear at this point so in an attempt to escape, it ran directly at the father and his four children. The bear ended up being within an arm's reach of one of the kids. The father grabbed his child and hurled himself and a child under his arm off the embankment. Simply put, this father encouraged his kids to chase a dangerous animal and his kids could have been seriously injured. Idiot. This guy's behavior is not only irresponsible, but it is against the law.
So here is what we should all keep in mind:
If a bear injures a human, the consequences are far more serious for the bear — the bear will be euthanized.
Willingly feeding a bear not only shortens its lifespan and makes it dependent on humans for food, but it also increases the risk of the bear injuring a human. Once again for the people in the back: This can result in the bear being relocated or euthanized.
Approaching wildlife is a risk to yourself, and more importantly a risk to the animal. There are ethical, responsible, and safe ways of photographing wildlife. Chasing animals is NOT one of those ways.
Approaching wildlife in National Parks within a certain distance is ILLEGAL. Read and adhere to the NPS laws and recommendations
Be safe. Be responsible. Protect our planet.
And please stop chasing my bear friends.
Cheering you on,