People taking bear selfies = Waterton Cyn closed

Posted at 9:15 AM, Sep 12, 2015

Denver Water says Waterton Canyon is still closed because of bear activity.

The popular trail was closed Aug. 28 because two momma bears, each with twin cubs, and other bears were actively foraging in the canyon.

Denver Water said part of the problem is not the bears, but people trying to get the perfect picture of them.

"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. "The current situation is not conducive for the safety of our visitors or the well-being of the wildlife.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said this time of year bears are actively seeking food to prepare for hibernation.

"It is a poor choice from our perspective, A) to get that close to wildlife and B) to turn your back, particularly on bears," said Matt Robbins, a spokesman for CPW.

The hashtag #bearselfie has become increasingly popular, though, and may be part of a broader trend -- people risking their lives to get the perfect self-photo.

In February, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that a pilot in Colorado was taking a selfie when he crashed his plane, killing himself and a passenger.

In Russia this year, dozens have died while taking extreme selfies, prompting a national "Safe Selfie" campaign.

"There needs to be some move to teach us how to use these new technologies in safe ways," said Samuel Jay, an associate professor of communications at Metropolitan State University.

Jay has researched the emotional relationship people have with technology and how it affects their judgment.

"We get lost in this relationship and we’re not able to kind of calculate the danger that is present in these situations," he said.

For now, the closed canyon in Colorado serves as a reminder that the wildlife are not pets, and people should beware of turning their backs on the wrong bear.

"It's when we put them at risk and put ourselves at risk that somebody has to intervene and that’s what we’ve done in this particular case," said Robbins.

Waterton Canyon is a popular trail for hikers, bikers, runners, walkers, picnickers and people wanting to fish or watch the wildlife and birds. More than 100,000 people visit Waterton Canyon each year.

Waterton Canyon is also the starting point for many hikers tackling the Colorado Trail.

It was also closed for part of May and June due to high water and maintenance work.

Get the latest information on Waterton Canyon on Denver Water's website.