Some overly eager visitors to South Lake Tahoe prompted local wildlife authorities to issue a warning recently: Stop taking selfies with the bears that feed on salmon at a popular viewing area.

Sadly, such ill-advised snaps are just one example of the cluelessness of many visitors to wilderness areas, documented by hundreds of videos that provide hours of head-shaking viewing.

Wildlife experts don’t know whether the proliferation of cellphones and social media sites is to blame or if the footage is just evidence of bad behavior that’s been happening all along, but they agree that many visitors to national parks and other wildlife areas remain shockingly unaware of the dangers they may encounter in the great outdoors. 

“In my experience, people tend to believe that the wilderness is not really very wild, that it’s been sanitized and made safe for them — and that’s just not true,” says Lee Whittlesey, historian at Yellowstone National Park and author of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.

“In fact, the word ‘wilderness’ comes from wild animal. But people are not used to seeing big mammals, so they get excited and run after them and chase them and try to get photos. Even with all of our warning signs and literature, we have incidents every year.”

So, with the arrival of fall — a popular time to visit wilderness areas but also the rut season for large mammals like bull elk and deer — here’s a refresher on wildlife safety tips. It’s common sense for most people, but it could be a life-saving read for others.