10/27/2014 01:45 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

Too Many Smartphone Users Taking Dumb, Dangerous Selfies With Bears, Tahoe Officials Say


Most of us are familiar with the warning "Please don't feed the bears."

Maybe it's time for a new one: "Please don't take selfies with the bears or they might feed on you."

The Forest Service has asked visitors hungry for photos and videos in South Lake Tahoe, California, to give the bears some space for the safety of both tourist and beast.

“Bears are unpredictable, wild animals and may attack if threatened,” Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson said in a statement. “We can’t have visitors creating dangerous situations for themselves and others. People are risking serious injury or death if they get too close to a bear.”

If the human encroachment continues, the Forest Service said it would close the area.

"Approaching bears too closely is also putting bears at risk, since bears may be captured and killed if they attack," the agency reminded overzealous shutterbugs,

The Reno Gazette-Journal pointed out that the spate of emboldened hikers has coincided with the October spawning run of the Kokanee salmon, which lures bears to the area's Taylor Creek. And that has smartphone users pulling some dumb stunts.

"We've had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a 'selfie' photo," Lisa Herron, spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told the paper.

One bear rushed a group but no injuries were reported, the Gazette-Journal wrote. Officials would like to keep it that way.

But according to one recent visitor, the problem is out of control, and park officials haven't been policing the area sufficiently. “There were like 30 people taking pictures of themselves with the bears,” Manut Buapet told ABC News. “I was concerned. You never know what’s going to happen with bears, but people just stuck around.”

It's a good idea to avoid areas where you know bears might turn up. But in case you do come across one, here's a primer on how to handle the situation.