Black bears (Ursus americanus) are an integral part of the Sierra ecosystem and one of the many wildlife species the National Park Service is mandated to protect. Black bears range throughout both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - where they forage for natural foods - digging up roots in meadows, ripping apart logs, and peering into tree cavities for food. Unfortunately, when human food becomes available, they learn to forage for human food in place of natural food - digging up your backseat to get the cooler in the trunk, ripping apart trailer doors, and peering into your car for food.
The best way to protect park bears is to keep them from getting human food. If you plan to visit these parks, take some time to learn about food storage before you come.
We hope you will have a chance to observe bears in the wild during your visit. All bears in these parks are American black bears (Ursus americanus). This name can be misleading, as they may be black, brown, cinnamon, or even blonde in color.
When bears and humans get too close, the result can be disastrous - for you or the bear. Bears change their behavior if they become habituated to humans (get used to our presence), which happens if we crowd them or observe them too closely.
If they obtain our food - even just one time - bears begin to break into cars, tents, and cabins. They may become aggressive. If a bear becomes a safety hazard, we may have to destroy it. In 2010, we had to kill four bears.
Habituated and food-conditioned bears often get horribly injured or killed by cars because they spend more time along roads and in campgrounds. Don't let this happen!
What should I do if I encounter a bear?
Bear Encounters in Natural Areas
Consider yourself lucky, but remember these simple rules:
We must make bears feel unwelcome in areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, and buildings so they don't get habituated to people or get our food. Help keep bears wild and alive! Follow the suggestions below:
Note: You may see park staff using more aggressive techniques to "haze" bears away, such as paint-ball guns, pepper spray, slingshots, or rubber bullets. Do not try these techniques yourself. They may seem "mean," but it may keep bears wild in the long run. Park staff are trained to haze bears safely.
What should I do if a bear bluff-charges me?
It is unlikely to happen, but if it does:
This guidance applies specifically to black bears, not grizzly bears (which do not occur in these parks). Different strategies apply to grizzly bears, and you should consult with local rangers about what to do during grizzly-bear encounters if you visit their habitat.
Where can I see a bear?
Seeing bears is often a matter of luck, but you can increase your chances if you know where and when to look. The best places are those locations that serve as food sources at that time of year. In spring, bears are often in meadows digging up grasses, forbs, and roots, or in the forest ripping apart logs for the insects inside. As berries ripen in summer, bears can be found near manzanita and bitter-cherry bushes. In the fall, you may see bears high in oak trees, consuming vast quantities of acorns.
Interested in learning more about black bears and grizzly bears in national parks? Visit the National Park Service's bear information pages for photos, videos, and a guide to parks where bears can be found.
Last updated: May 22, 2017