Selfies out of control and menace wildlife, scenic beauty

By now it’s a joke or maybe black humor how many people have been killed while taking unduly exciting selfies to impress their friends. Instead of a like, they get a nomination for the Darwin Award.  There is now even a web page that gives the details of the weirdest selfie induced death in each country. Besides killing or injuring themselves, these selfie narcissists (competitors?) harm others, and not just other people. Wildlife and natural scenic beauty are at risk and being marred.

Most recently rangers in Yellowstone National Park learned via social media that three from the group “High on Life SundayFundayz” had walked well off the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic Spring. They tramped across the delicate mats of colorful algae and bacteria to pose themselves. Walking across these mats leaves discolored footprints that take a long time to heal. This huge, colorful hot spring is regarded as one of the most beautiful natural features in the world. Last year in the Park a mother was gored by a bison while taking a selfie with her child just a few yards in front of a wild bison.

A former ranger and friend of mine tells me that it is becoming common with foreign visitors, especially the Chinese tourists, to walk or even drive out onto the geothermal features for selfies. Pretty Chinese girls are fond of selfies while waving colorful silk scarves with a wild animal in the picture.
Early this year in Argentina a baby dolphin was pulled out of the sea by a crowd of people and passed around so that they could take selfies. The dolphin died. In the Florida Keys the rare, tiny Key deer are being harmed by selfie takers who draw them to the busy roadside and feed them, erasing their natural fears of humans.

Some might say this about honoring and respecting wildlife. I think it is only about putting forward themselves.

Suggestion. Do a web image search for “Yellowstone selfies.”

The Grand Prismatic spring story. “Tourist Bros Stomp On Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring.” Huffington Post.






  1. Salle Avatar

    Great article, Ralph. Thank you for posting this. In the regional news and on national news the clowns who tromped Grand Prismatic are on the front page this week, as was the poor bison calf last week. I think it should be a loud topic for the entire season. People think their willful ignorance is funny in the fashion of Beevis and Butthead, and that they are somehow above punishment. For the Grand Prismatic bros, they have another thing coming and I hope they all get the max with regard to punishment. The folks who facilitated the euthanizing of the calf, their charges have increased since the death of the calf.

  2. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Yes, glad to see this. The Parks really should not be afraid of stronger restrictions (because really, do you need a cell phone when you are out in the natural wonders, it seems incongruous except for emergencies, like if you fell in to the hot springs); I don’t think it will have the visitors leaving in droves. There’s no excuse for walking out/driving out to the springs to get a dumb selfie. The ‘High on Life’ Bros. seem to want to buy their way out of it.

    1. Chris Harbin Avatar
      Chris Harbin

      Unfortunately, most people’s camera’s are now also their phone. You are right though, one certainly does not need the phone part of it!

  3. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    It’s sad that many don’t seem to respect anything anymore. Leaving footprints at Grand Prismatic, and carving your initials or paintings into monuments is not what people who come to the Parks want to see. Graffiti is beautiful in cities, even art, but out of place in wilderness because it’s a people thing. It’s what people want to get away from. Leave it at home. When I travel, I’m interested in the new area I’m visiting totally, and am respectful. Do these people know any better? Someone in another country climbed to the top of a 126 year old statue in Portugal for a ‘selfie’; it toppled and broke. The man is awaiting trial for vandalism. Who does these things? Even climbing a statue of an historic figure I can’t wrap my head around. It’s what comes of a modern culture of no restraint, I guess.

    It really isn’t impressive to see a ‘daring’ selfie; it just looks silly, dangerous, and disrespectful. The Park should not be held legally responsible for people taking risks when they have been warned to keep away from wildlife and hot springs, etc. but that’s just what will happen.

    1. Salle Avatar

      The key issue is the lack of respect, period. Lack of respect for anything and everything including one’s self. There’s a book I read in college and still refer to: Searching For Yellowstone by Paul Schullery which chronicles the history of management policy in YNP. The take home message is that the park needed and still needs escalating protective management policies because people don’t know how to behave in these special places and they would trash them in no time without policies to protect these places from humans.

      Respect is the biggest issue because for the people who do ignorant stuff like this, it’s all about them and that is all that matters to them. Human social decline is upon us and this is one of the blaring tattle-tale signs.

  4. Kathleen Avatar

    RE: the men who walked on Grand Prismatic:

    “Before breaking rules at Yellowstone the men allegedly repelled in Arches National Park, operated drones in Badlands National Park and drove their conspicuous blue motorhome on the BLM-managed Bonneville Salt Flats.”

    (Note: ‘repelled’ should, of course, be ‘rappelled’ – tsk)

  5. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    And people wonder why making changes to the Wilderness Act to open previously untrammeled wilderness to mountain biking and rafting make people leery. These people exemplify what makes people leery. Arches Park is very delicate. Who can forget those louts who toppled rock formations in Utah, and the boy scouts cheering?

    Hoodoo You Think You Are?

  6. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    And how out of touch with the natural world do you have to be to realize that ‘you’ are not the savior of a bison calf? Why not report it to the Park rangers if you have concerns? It doesn’t ring true to me and sounds like just another stunt.

  7. Salle Avatar

    Public shaming isn’t enough, legal consequences have to be the norm for this kind of unacceptable behavior. If there are no hurtful and tangible consequences, this will never change and only increase the “stupid for sport” factor.

    And I don’t care they have to be extradited from outside the US to deliver their due punishment.


  8. Angela Avatar

    One of the horrible things about the internet is that we now know there are so many narcissistic assholes out there and their reach is growing. I’m certain people are going to be using drones to check out raptor nests at some point. I am super worried about the potential effects on our wild birds that drones pose, especially if they begin to be used to deliver amazon products. Walking on the Grand Prismatic Spring site, picking up bison calves. What next? Nothing surprises me anymore, but it sure is depressing. Anytime I am in natural surroundings, I do my best to minimize my presence so as not to disturb wildlife (or, rather, to see wildlife) or impact habitat, so I really have no clue what goes on in the brains of these people. I might as well be from Mars considering what I have in common with them.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Add that one to the dolphin and the bison calf – death by selfie. 🙁 Does people’s brain functioning go out the window or something once they have a cell phone?

  9. Nancy Avatar

    Jury is probably still out on a Darwin Award (in a foreign category)

  10. leslie Avatar

    There’s an another twist to the selfie rage…selling it through youtube and making lots of money. And not just selfies, but outrageous stunts such as touching bison or filming fed bear.

    My son’s girlfriend works for an agency in NYC that, among other things, hires people to constantly peruse youtube to find videos that can be sold to clients such as news organizations as stock footage.

    Last year when the fellow was killed in YNP by a grizzly, I saw stock footage that had previously been posted on youtube of that bear on the car in the Beartooths. The young bear had been fed from cars, and was eventually moved by G&F. But instead of honking their horn or driving away, the car’s occupants kept filming, then posted their video and, when it went viral, they sold it and received royalties.

    Where there is cash reward, these kinds of offenses will continue and escalate. It’s a big problem that needs to be addressed.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I feel the tone of this article leaves a lot to be desired. It’s overly simplistic, and continues on the trend of individuals not taking personal responsibility for their own behavior, and blaming the general public for ‘rage’ which I think is hyperbole. These are the kinds of things that understandably leave people wondering, I don’t know if I’d call it ‘rage’. Another trend of the modern age is that people must respond without emotion, but robotically I guess. Negative emotions are verboten! Only happy, happy, happy and everybody has good intentions and is a good person. Get real. The undercurrent of violence in this country tells the real story.

      Whatever happened to good old fashioned common sense? I honestly can’t believe it. Putting a bison calf in an SUV is just beyond my credulity and must have taken some doing.

      Calling the bison kidnappers ‘well-meaning’ (always giving the benefit of the doubt) just negates the entire solution the writer poses, of demanding greater accountability and a tougher stance with consequences. It sounds like a frat boy stunt, much like the ‘high on life’ guys doing stunts at parks across the country. Make sure that Park personnel are ‘communicating’ the rules and expectations properly. *eyeroll*

      People have been trying to get the Parks to take a tougher stance forever. You’d never know it from this writer’s opinion piece. I haven’t been to Yellowstone in awhile, and yet the same public mindset was there, loss of all good sense, with not much done about it by staff. I think it’s a matter of a fear of losing the visitor dollar, so a blind eye is turned to everything people do. I think it is a reflection of the current administration’s one-sided, overly-simplistic, people’s use only view of what the Parks are supposed to be and that, again, everybody is the same. They are not going to be for everyone, and not everyone will appreciate them.

      A prime example is that Yellowstone makes carrying bear spray ‘a choice’ – so that the important wildlife must pay with its life no matter how thoughtless and misguided ‘mistake’ any human being makes.

  11. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    I’m so sick of arrogant, ignorant morons destroying wild, beautiful places. If you can’t respect these places, stay the hell out. I hope these selfish, childish, “High On Life” twits get what they deserve.

  12. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    But they said they were ‘sorry’:

    “The Forest Service will begin talks to educate universities whose students visit national parks, but first local Forest Service staff will start to set up campgrounds for the Memorial Day weekend.”

    “Educate” young adults? How pathetic can you get? It’s good they are going to bill the university for the cost of cleanup. Gross!

  13. monty Avatar

    For the previous 3 summers I have voluteered to pick up trash on a national forest. They give me a truck and trash bags and away I go.

    I have learned that there is a significant # of forest visitors who, if not camped in fee camprounds,will crap and pollute until the cows come home. They will crap adjacent to where they eat (no buriel)and scatter the toilet tissue where their dogs and children play. Of course I have never met a “litter bug” who admits to the sin. To date, I am not aware of a forest law officer issuing a ticket. This country needs some Singapore justice. What is scary is these pigs breed like rabbits.

  14. Nncy Avatar

    Yellowstone Park, maybe, kind of, moving towards getting a grip?

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      In this place, people don’t seem to get the concept of wild. Yellowstone Spokesperson Jodi Lyle explained, “One of the challenges that we face is helping people in an increasingly urban world understand what wild means.”

      And to respect it. It really is hard to believe, that people don’t seem to understand it. I sure hope that Yellowstone will begin to take a stronger stance. It will help the visitors too, as well as wildlife.

  15. Kyle Avatar

    Thanks for posting Ralph, this folly is emerging as a more serious problem all the time. The “High on Life SundayFundayz” boys are clearly incapable of respect and self control (plus their cheap products are completely farcical), and the folks who insist on selfies with wild animals will eventually get what they deserve. Unfortunately damage is being done.

    Is there a solution? More signs, regulations, fences, education? Maybe we’ll have to rely on natural selection to weed out the less capable, but in the meantime the social trend is distressing, but completely predictable.

  16. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines
  17. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    And another one. Alaska State Troopers got reports that people were ‘harassing’ the goat:

    Mountain Goat Drowns After Photo-Crazed Mob Drives Him or Her Into the Ocean

  18. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    I couldn’t access the link.

    You have to wonder why wolves wouldn’t be welcome for deer population reduction (where needed) though? According to some, and depending what propaganda sources you read, deer and elk numbers have been ruined for hunters because of wolves – but would they accept cougars? Are wolves more dangerous than cougars?

    I just realized my link to the above story doesn’t work either:

  19. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I thought this was awful. Just like that, someone destroys an animal forever. I don’t blame the prey animals for feeling safer around non-human predators. Zoos have got to do a better job of keeping people away from the animals:

  20. Kathleen Avatar

    Actually, I would rephrase your last sentence and say people have got to do a better job of keeping animals away from zoos! Zoos–where cash-paying customers are “guests” and where wild animals like Pinky are “ambassadors.” Nonetheless, what a sad, outrageous story. Captive animals in zoos often go crazy from their unnatural lives and confinement, but you’d think they would at the very least be safe! Thanks for posting this.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Yes. Failing getting rid of zoos permanently (and that is going to take some time), we’ve got to do a better job of keeping kids out of the exhibits, and people who lack the self control of their emotions and anger issues to have the access to wildlife to take them out on some poor bird (or hunting wildlife). Or keeping someone with serious mental health issues from jumping into lion and tiger cages. But it would appear that people take precedence, and it is a money-making venture catering to them. A few animals here or there I guess make no difference, when a zoo’s primary obligation isn’t to protecting them.

  21. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    All that said, I have high hopes for the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument. I do hope it will help the economy and jobs too.

  22. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Washington state resident Lisa Morrow’s son was among the children Gleason led toward the elk. Despite safety advisories — and numerous examples of visitors getting gored by bison, mauled by bears and chased by elk — Morrow declared herself unafraid of the park’s wildlife. She said she was eager to see a grizzly up close.

    “I want to see one right there,” Morrow said, pointing to a spot just feet away. “I’d throw it a cookie.”

    I hope this stupid woman realizes that if she or her kids are harmed, the bear would have to be destroyed. Is it worth it? It was terrible the last time a person refused to take reasonable precautions, and I hope it will not have to happen again.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan