The Dangerous Selfie That National Park Services Warns Visitors Against Attempting

One of the most thrilling things about visiting a U.S. national park is the opportunity to see incredible wild animals, like bison, bears, and wolves, in their natural habitat. Rather than seeing their captive behaviors like you would at a zoo, you can see what these incredible animals are really like on their own terms. Unfortunately, it seems like every year, tourists in national parks go viral for getting way too close to wild animals hoping to get a selfie with them. The National Park Service has warned guests never to get close enough to animals to take a selfie while in the park, reminding visitors: "You are a guest in their home."


Despite warnings and fines for visitors who get too close to wildlife, visitors continue risking their lives and the lives of the animals on a good shot for social media. There's no safe way to get into frame with a nearby bison, but taking a selfie might be the worst choice. Former National Park Service social scientist Kristen Leong told USA Today back in 2018 that visitors were getting increasingly close to wild animals for pictures, and warned that selfies are particularly dangerous options, saying, "You're up close to a wild animal that you might be provoking, and you're turning your back on it."

Tourists often get too close to wild animals

Being wild places, national parks can be home to many dangers. While most visitors would probably know to be cautious on something like the Grand Canyon's famously dangerous Bright Angel Trail, caution often seems to be forgotten when face to face with an animal. From poisonous snakes to massive moose, people love getting a selfie with a wild animal, even if it could be deadly.


This is a major issue at Yellowstone. Tourists manage their tight budgets to be able to visit the iconic Yellowstone National Park, and when they finally get to see a bison, they can't help but get a closer look. In some disturbing videos, like the ones featured on the Instagram Tourons of Yellowstone, tourists even touch the animals or crouch down right in front of them for the perfect shot. Startling these incredible animals can result in horrendous injuries or even death, and unfortunately, it's not easy to tell if they're getting upset as you approach. Quite frequently, reports and videos of people being gored or even thrown by bison come out — and yet people still can't leave them alone.


How to safely photograph wildlife at national parks

Nobody is denying that national parks have postcard-worthy scenes, and there's nothing wrong with bringing your camera or whipping out your phone to take a photo of the amazing animals that live there. You just need to do it in a way that keeps you — and the creatures that live in the park — safe. The National Park Service advises that you should be using your zoom if you're photographing an animal, otherwise you're probably too close. If you can fit into frame with them for a selfie, you are definitely too close. Even if an animal seems calm and approaches you, you need to give it space and stay as far away from it as the specific park regulations require.


If you want to get a great shot, try going out at dusk or dawn when the animals are most active and using a telephoto lens so that you can get a picture that looks like you were inches away from these animals while still staying at a safe distance from you. The animals may not even know that you're there, guaranteeing you an authentic photo of this creature in its natural habitat. It may also be a good idea to take your photos from inside your car.