(LiveOutdoors, July 7, 2016, Robert Deen)
What is the greatest danger people face in the outdoors? Wild animals, raging rapids, poisonous serpents?
It may actually be the dreaded selfie, the occasionally obnoxious habit of taking a picture of your self with a smart phone to share via social media.
“Selfies kill more people than sharks!” trumpets The Telegraph, a British tabloid.
The examples appear endless. Last month a tourist fell to his death at the ancient Peruvian ruins of Machu Picchu after disregarding safety signs. Authorities said he was trying to take a selfie posing on one leg as if leaping, then slipped and fell. Just last weekend a South Korean fell to his death while attempting a selfie at a Peruvian waterfall.
At Yellowstone National Park, rangers are practically beside themselves over incidents – too numerous to list – of tourists sticking their smiling faces next to bears, elk, and bison, all too often producing unhappy endings. Then there are people who ignore safety signs and wander among mud pots and geysers for selfies – never to wander back. The park service website had to post Bad Selfies: 5 Places Not to Pose in Yellowstone Park.
According to NOTES FROM THE FIELD: INJURIES ASSOCIATED WITH BISON ENCOUNTERS — YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, 2015, of the five bison attacks in the park last year, three happened while the person was taking a photograph within six feet of the bison.
The problem is so bad in Yellowstone that a second edition was recently released of the book Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.
Often it’s not the photographers who suffer, but the animals they pose with. Worldwide outrage met photos of Argentinian beach goers passing around a baby dolphin for selfies until it died. In Macedonia a tourist killed a swan by dragging it out of a lake for photos. In Costa Rica selfie-seeking tourists disrupted sea turtles trying to lay eggs.
You get the picture.
Two definite no-no’s for selfies – snakes and handguns. A 36-year-old man from Lake Elsinore wrapped a rattlesnake around his neck for a selfie, and was promptly bitten.
“That’s just being a fool,” his mother told CBS Los Angeles. Would you agree? By the way, his medical bill was $153,000.
Speaking of fools, many people have taken selfies holding a gun to their heads with fatal results. Apparently they did not get the “kids don’t try this at home” message.
But of course it’s hard to top the two Russian brothers who blew themselves up with a hand grenade – presumably by accident. The only remaining evidence was the smart phone with a photo of them smiling together and pulling the pin.
Speaking of Russia, the problem is so bad there that police have launched a campaign urging people to take safer selfies after more than a 100 people were injured — dozens died — in gruesome accidents while striking high-risk poses.
The outdoors is not a risk-free environment. The wilderness is wild. Most people who enjoy outdoor activities use their common sense accordingly. Dangerous selfies are dumb. Use your head, or leave the phone at home.