Early in May 2016, two tourists were visiting Yellowstone National Park when they saw a baby bison off on its own. The tourists said the baby bison looked cold in the 40 degree weather, so in genuine concern, they loaded the baby bison into the back of their SUV and took it to a ranger station because they were worried for the bison’s safety.
A week later, the park said that not only did removing the bison from its natural habitat create potential for harm to the public as the bison wandered around, unaware of where it was, it ended up being fatal for the bison itself. Its mother rejected it when she sensed humans had tampered with its child. Park rangers were forced to euthanize the bison for the safety of the park.
When this news hit social media, the tourists where relentlessly mocked for having interfered with the natural habitat. The problem is that this not just an isolated event, and it often has to do with tourists striving to get selfies with the wildlife.
In the past few years, there have been multiple selfie related wildlife deaths. A man nearly lost his hand because he tried to take a selfie with a rattlesnake when it bit his hand. A Colorado park closed down for weeks because tourists were taking selfies with bears up to ten feet away from the wild bears. A dolphin in Argentina died when it was pulled from the water and passed around a crowd for selfies. Back in Yellowstone, five people were tossed or gored by bison in 2015, causing four to be hospitalized.
The lesson to be learned is that wildlife and the ecosystems within are fragile. Interfering with those ecosystems is harmful for both humans and wildlife. Instead, photography of animals should be done from a safe distance and with the proper regard for the animals’ habitat. To engage otherwise is to risk personal harm and damaging the ecosystem.