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Posted: September 04, 2015

One more reason selfies with bears are not a good idea

Getting close to a bear in Georgia is a bad idea, for you and for the bear. Photo: state Wildlife Resources Division
Getting close to a bear in Georgia is a bad idea, for you and for the bear. Photo: state Wildlife Resources Division

By Bo Emerson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bears and humans have been sharing the screen this summer, and sometimes, the results are not funny.

The Robert Redford movie “A Walk in the Woods” is about the misadventures of two middle-age Appalachian Trail hikers and includes a bear encounter played for laughs.

But a viral video of a woman coaxing a bear to approach her in Vermont has sparked criticism of the woman on social media and led to two bears being euthanized.

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The Hartford Courant reported that the bear was killed this week for “acting aggressively” toward the woman, Stephanie Rivkin. The bear can be seen touching the woman’s leg with its mouth, but Rivkin was not injured.

The bear had been tagged and apparently had run-ins with wildlife officials in the past. It was previously tranquilized and moved after one encounter. But commenters online point out that instead of moving away from a pair of bears in the video, Rivkin stands still and records their approach on her cellphone, encouraging them by saying “don’t be scared.”

While searching for the bear in the video, wildlife staff encountered another aggressive bear, which was also killed. The plan to euthanize the bears was protested, and Rivkin was criticized on social media. “They’ve called me every name in the book,” she told the Courant.

Letting a bear approach isn’t a good idea, said Melissa Cummings, spokesperson for the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “There is no photograph that is worth not only the potential harm you could bring to yourself, but you are further encouraging this animal to come closer to other people.”

According to Cummings, black bears are naturally timid and easy to scare off. The proper response is to make noise, and move away as quickly as possible. “The more noise you make the better,” she said.

A bear that has become habituated to humans becomes a danger to people and a danger to itself, Cummings said. “The last thing we want to do is relocate or euthanize a bear.”

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