Visitors to Yosemite Valley last fall were more likely than usual to see a bear during their trip. Acorns dropping from Yosemite Valley’s black oaks were perfectly timed with black bears entering hyperphagia, a period when bears are looking for big calorie boosts (up to 20,000 calories every day or eleven pounds of acorns) as they prepare for winter hibernation.
Two weeks ago, at least three bears were hit by cars in Yosemite, one of which was killed. The two bears that survived were hit by drivers going faster than the 25 mph speed limit and were seriously injured and limping.
You are walking along outside when you come upon a large pile of poop. How can you tell if it’s bear poop? Given the variation in their diets, bear scat from one bear can look very different from another bear. Poop from the same bear may look entirely different on different days. So, how can you tell?
One of the most common questions we get when visitors see a bear in Yosemite is, “How old is that bear?” Knowing a bear’s age can help us understand a lot about its behavior and how to manage it. If a bear has been managed since it was young, we know exactly how old it is. If bears are first captured when they are older, biologists use tooth wear as an indication of a bear’s age.
Yosemite has a long and tedious history managing bears, people, and the interactions between the two. In 1998, the park hit a record high number of bear incidents in the park with over 1,500 (documented) incidents in one year.
Summer is upon us! The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and the kids are finally out of school and ready to explore their new-found freedom; and in a similar capacity, so are the young black bears of Yosemite. The transition from spring to summer is a coming-of-age time in the lives of young yearling black bears, when they are forced to leave their mothers’ sides and begin life on their own.
Spring is transitioning into summer and mating season in Yosemite has begun! Bears are solitary creatures and aren’t often seen in pairs or sloths (a group of bears is called a sloth). However, there are a few common exceptions: when food is overly abundant in one specific place, when sows have cubs or yearlings, and in the late spring and early summer during mating season (May–July).
Trails make getting through the rugged Yosemite wilderness easier for bears and humans alike. Yosemite’s trails traverse much of the park, and humans and bears often agree on the best trailside rest stops, access to water, and cozy campsites.
Leaving the yearlings at the den site was hard; after all the effort everyone had put in to get them to that point. Biologists watched their GPS data closely, and after about a month of hibernation in their human-made den, the bears began to explore their surroundings.
In January 2017, the sibling yearlings—orphaned after their mother was hit and killed by a car on Independence Day, 2016—had been in hibernation for more than a month already. The cubs, once weighing eight pounds each, now weighed between 63 and 95 pounds, after being well nourished through their first year by the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center (LTWC).
It was Independence Day weekend 2016, and Yosemite was bustling with people hiking, camping, and taking in the scenery. For most visitors, Independence Day is a welcome break, a long weekend in the middle of summer. For park staff, it’s the busiest time of year, and employees across the park work hard at their jobs through the holiday providing visitor services and protecting the park. That morning, the wildlife management staff got one of those calls they dread the most: a b
When visitors see us moving a bear trap, they often ask: “So…where are you taking that bear?” When we discover a black bear obtaining human food and damaging property in Yosemite, we capture it to identify it and usually attach a tracking device. So, why then don’t we simply relocate the bear to a remote area of the park? Indeed, the National Park Service did that for many years. In recent years we’ve all but stopped this practice here. Why? It doesn't work.
National parks exist to protect wild and inspirational places, unimpaired, for this and future generations—to create the opportunity for people to experience these regenerative natural places, for the most part, as they would be without the impact of human development. But for wild animals, even our short visits to observe and recreate can have immense effects.