Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Police in Colorado are telling residents and visitors to stop trying to take selfies with bears after a crowd of overeager wildlife viewers separated a mother bear and her cubs as they were coming down from a tree in downtown Aspen.
The crowd included a mother who was seen carrying her child toward the bears in order to take a selfie with the animals, Aspen police said.
Police said they’ve seen an increase in reports of bear sightings in recent days, and with that they’ve had growing concerns over the crowds that gather around the animals.
Officers said the incident with the mother bear and her cubs, which happened Wednesday near the Hyman Avenue mall, was particularly bad.
“It got pretty heated,” Aspen police Sgt. Rob Fabrocini said in a news release. “They came down into a fairly large crowd of photo-takers and those that insisted on trying to get close enough to take selfies.”
Officers said that a small group of people chased after the mother bear and her cubs when they tried to run from the group, separating the mother from her cubs. Authorities said the mother bear returned to the mall “very agitated and making loud crying sounds.”
“People were still walking right up to her, even when it was clear she was agitated and growling as people got close,” Fabrocini said.
The bears were eventually reunited and able to escape the area during a lull in the crowd, police said.
“The members of the Aspen Police Department would like to use this real-life scenario as a reminder to the public that bears are wild animals,” police said in a statement.
Agitated bears can attack and seriously injure people, officers reminded the public, and if a bear does attack, it could have to be euthanized by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
“What may seem like an opportunity for good selfie could cost a bear its life,” police said.
Officers also reminded the public that it is illegal to harass wildlife -- including bears. Harassing wildlife is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of $100.
To remind people to stay away from bears, Aspen police created the hashtag #AspenBearsSelfieStrike.
“It is easy to blame these situations on tourists, but locals are also involved in unsafe behaviors,” police said. “The Aspen Police invite you to work with us and be a champion for the bears.”
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