Bears

Black bear activity in Yosemite, including number of incidents, is reported (as often as possible) at

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearfacts.htm
http://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/nature/bear-management.htm

bear looking into a car window:

NPS photo bear looking into a car window

Yosemite Conservancy donors, like yours truly, get regular news briefs, including that “New GPS collars and hand-held data-collection devices will replace older, outdated models and allow wildlife managers to gather invaluable real-time information about bear habitat and behavior.”

Using GPS technology, Yosemite's wildlife managers can track and protect the park's black bears. This map shows the path of four different bears near and in Yosemite Valley on May 21, 2015.
Using GPS technology, Yosemite’s wildlife managers can track and protect the park’s black bears. This map shows the path of four different bears near and in Yosemite Valley on May 21, 2015.

https://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/wildlife-management/keep-bears-wild-GPS-tracking-2016

This shows tracking for one bear crossing a road back and forth during one day, while looking for food. (A reminder to please drive slowly.)

aerial photo with lines showing a bears movements

and a new page for 2017: http://keepbearswild.org/bear-tracker/

and read lots of stories at: http://keepbearswild.org/bear-team-blog/

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First, at this page you will find

links to general info about bears,

then practicalities of camping and backpacking around bears, (Food Storage , what to do if you see a bear, how bears get into cars, info for backpackers) and lots of stories about bears getting into cars, tents, camps, etc., mostly geared towards De Anza College Outdoor Club trips around bears in California and Grand Teton National park.

And the answer to the question:
Why don’t the rangers just move the problem bears?

mom and three c ubs:

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– – – from http://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/nature/mammals.htm

“Yosemite’s black bear is an omnivore commonly spotted eating berries in the summer or acorns in the fall. Yosemite’s largest mammal, the male black bear weighs an average 300 to 350 pounds, and smaller females weigh 150 to 200 pounds. The biggest black bear ever captured in Yosemite weighed 690 pounds. If visitors spot a bear while in the park, it is a black bear-not a brown or grizzly bear. The last known grizzly bear was shot outside the Yosemite region in the early 1920s; the species no longer exists in California despite its presence on the California state flag.”

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– – – from a Yosemite Daily report:

Yosemite National Park is home to between 300 and 500 American black bears. Despite their name, most of Yosemite’s black bears are actually brown in color. Black bears are incredibly strong, curious and intelligent animals. They are fast sprinters, agile climbers, excellent swimmers and quick learners with an extraordinary sense of smell — and a huge appetite. The average female bear weighs 150 pounds and males often exceed 300 pounds. The average lifespan is 18 years in the wild. Black bears naturally avoid humans, but when they learn to associate food with people, that behavior can change quickly, which is why vigilance and proper food storage are so important.

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– – – From a webpage that has since disappeared, so I have no link available:

“Male black bears rarely reach 400 pounds (180 kg) and females may grow to 250 (112.5 kg)

“Despite their name, the coat color of black bears range from yellow through various shades of brown to black. About 95% of bears in the Sierra Nevada are some shade of brown and only about 5% are a true black color. “

“Black bears in the Sierra Nevada usually den from mid-December into March or early April. This time period is shorter than in areas with harsher winters.

“If a sow is healthy enough, she will give birth during hibernation inside the den in late January or February.” Bear milk provides three times the energy when compared to human milk and contains 30-33% fat on average compared to about 3-4% fat of human milk.

“Meadow plants, grasses and tender herbs are the most important food source before the berries and nuts ripen in late summer.”

bear standing NPS photo copy“Bears are often seen in movies and television standing on their two hind legs, growling and looking quite ferocious. In real life however, black bears stand bipedal when they are trying to get a better look or smell at something that has peaked their curiosity, and growling is rarely a sound that you will hear from a black bear.”

They also note that “while a vast majority of the Sierra black bear population lives an entire 10-30 year lifespan without coming into contact with humans, others are not so fortunate. Some black bears in the Sierra Nevada have learned to capitalize on opportunities to dine on unprotected garbage sources or food that has been left unsecured.”

Denali Park explains why a bear would stand up:

“If a bear stands up and looks at me, is it acting aggressively?

No. Bears stand on their hind legs in order to get a better look or a better whiff of something they are not sure of. If this happens, make it obvious that you are human by waving your arms and speaking loudly. Try to position yourself so that you are upwind and the bear can smell you. Signs that a bear is disturbed by your presence include: woofing, jaw chomping, swaying, laying ears back, and yawning.”

The guiding principle of the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group is to never underestimate an animal you can teach to ride a bicycle…

NPS bear tracks:

From Yosemite National park, Bear Facts – August 15-21, 2004

“Bears express themselves vocally. Many visitors have been treated to a late night wake up by a bear moaning in the tree above their tent. The moaning is a display of disappointment. Also, bears often huff while in the tree as a show of annoyance. This week we saw two bears in one tree. One was moaning and the other was huffing!”

Bear sounds from the NPS:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bears/sounds.htm

NPS photo bear peeking through shrubery

What do grizzly bears eat?

A report from Grand Teton National Park listed what they found in grizzly bear scat:

“A recent synthesis of the available literature on grizzly bear diets (Gunther et al. 2014) determined that the most frequently detected items in 11,478 scats collected during 37 years between 1943 to 2009 were graminoids [grasses], 58.7%; ants, 15.8%; whitebark pine seeds, 15.4%; clover, 11.19%; and dandelion, 10.9%. Other items frequently detected were elk, 8.3%; thistle, 6.9%; horsetail, 5.6%; yampa roots, 4.9%; berries, 4.9%; cutthroat trout, 4.4%; biscuit root, 4.0%; spring beauty, 2.9%; bison, 2.8%; and fireweed, 2.7%. The review also noted the annual stability of the most frequently detected diet‐items during 33 years between 1943 and 2009. The most stable items were graminoids, ants, and elk, which were found in the collected scats in all years (100% of years); clover was present during 97% of years; and elk, thistle and horsetail were found in 94% of years.”

Yellowstone park wrote abut the differences in black bears and grizzly bear diets: “The primary difference is that meat and roots are less prominent in the diet of black bears (Knight et al. 1988). Black bears have short, curved claws better suited for climbing than digging. In contrast, grizzly bears have longer, straighter claws and a larger shoulder muscle mass which makes them more efficient at digging for food items in the soil such as roots, bulbs, corms, and tubers, as well as rodents and their caches (Herrero 1978). Overall, grizzly bears consume more meat and black bears more plant material. ”

see also: animal sign comparisons

NPS photo bear in greenery: bear walking through greenery

From the Yosemite Daily report:

“Bears shed (molt) their fur annually during the spring and summer. Often times, the new fur is a darker color. The molt generally starts around the feet and head. During the different stages of the molt, bears sometimes appear to have on socks or have a bleached ‘Mohawk’ down their back.”

“Cubs are born in January or February weighing approximately 8 ounces. When they emerge from the den with their mother about 3 months later they weigh 10-12 lbs. Cubs generally stay with their mother until the end of their second spring. Yearlings are currently separating from their mothers and will be seen alone in the park. They are often mistaken for cubs due to their small size, usually weighing between 50-90 lbs.”

“Bears are capable of standing upright on their hind legs. They stand unaided to observe or increase sight distance, to fight, and to reach to feed, prey, or mark. Bears do not attack in this position, though they may raise their upper body to better reach and grasp their prey or enemy. The American black bear can walk bipedally, but only for a few steps.”

“While searching for insects, a black bear yearling was observed flipping over a 320 pound rock using only a single foreleg. This young bear weighed only 120 pounds.”

“Black bears have a ‘mean curiosity index’ of 59, beating out weasels, otters, dogs, raccoons, and cats.”

These photos are from the National Park Service historic photo collection:

NPS historic photo collection Jack E Boucher bears begging: bear climbing up on car NPS historical photo

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Notes from an annual Bear Training Day for park staff and volunteers:

There are an estimated 350 to 500 black bears in Yosemite National Park. 10-20 of them are tagged.

They can live to 20 or 30 years old. They are black bears, but are 90% brown in color (or red, blonde, black), often with a white blaze on their chest.

Hibernation depends on food availability, not weather, and some do not hibernate much at all. They pick a den that is warm and dry, including even up in a hole in an oak tree. Adult males go into hibernation first and are first out. They start to go out in March. Females with cubs are the last out of hibernation.

They eat 4,000 calories a day.

They are incredibly quiet when walking and can sneak up and get food off a picnic table that people were sitting at. Injuries to humans include at night when unloading food into the campsite bear box, and the doors are open, and the person gets swatted by a bear that snuck up on them.

More human food = more tooth decay.

A well fed mother might have 3-4 cubs. Her body delays implantation and her body knows how many she can have. A sow not well fed might have only one cub or none. There might be cubs from different fathers in one birth.

Black bears are string enough to bend open an improperly latched bear box door.

Bears have an powerful sense of smell. For example, they can smell a banana in an ice chest in the closed trunk of a vehicle. To get at that banana, a bear broke into a door window and clawed through the backseat.

39 black bears were hit by vehicles in Yosemite in 2015, the highest number to that date. (Average was previously 19 per year.)

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bear tracks in mud NPS photo: two bear tracks in mud showing all five toes and claws

Alaska National Parks note:

“Bears Don’t Like Surprises

If you are hiking through bear country, make your presence known – especially where the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see. Make noise, sing, talk loudly. If possible, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect. Avoid thick brush. If you can’t, try to walk with the wind at your back so your scent will warn bears of your presence. Contrary to popular belief, bears can see almost as well as people, but trust their noses much more than their eyes or ears. Always let bears know you are there.”

Bear “bells” do not work at all well compared to a human voice. They don’t carry over streams, wind as well.

Glacier Park warns:

“Make Noise

Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching. Most bells are not enough. Calling out and clapping at regular intervals are better ways to make your presence known. Do your best to never surprise a bear.”

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Since 2003 there has been a note in the Yosemite Guide: “REPORT ALL BEAR SIGHTINGS! To report bear sightings, improper food storage, trash problems, and other bear-related problems, leave a message for the Bear Management team at: (209) 372-0322. Your call can be made anonymously.”

Report all incidents and sightings. If you have the presence of mind in all the excitement, try to notice if the bear has a tag, the color of the tag and the number on it.

bearlogo: from the Keep Bears Wild program

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Watch a 9 minute Yosemite National Park / Yosemite Conservancy video about black bears:

https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=2D267AA8-E839-8F9A-D30823F8F6F5B6DA

or

https://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/yosemite-nature-notes-black-bears

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Below NPS photos on the walls of the campground office:

car with mangled side doortorn up seats inside a car

how bears get into cars

The main method is by putting their claws into the top of your door frame and pulling down on the door, much like the lid on a sardine can opens. Once in the car sometimes they will claw through the back seat to get into the trunk, or with some models, they can pull the back seat open as the owner would. Another method is to bust your tailight out and reach into the trunk. (I read somewhere, but lost the source, of bears jumping up and down on the roof of a particular car model to get the doors to pop open.)

Black bears may prefer minivans, either for easier access or because they often carry food-spilling children in them, causing more food odors.

The abstract of

Selective Foraging for Anthropogenic Resources by Black Bears: Minivans in Yosemite National Park

said: “Black bears (Ursus americanus) forage selectively in natural environments. To determine if bears also forage selectively for anthropogenic resources we analyzed data on vehicles broken into by bears from Yosemite National Park, California. We classified vehicles into 9 categories based on their make and model and collected data on use (2001–2007) and availability (2004–2005). From 2001 to 2007 bears broke into 908 vehicles at the following rates: minivan (26.0%), sport–utility vehicle (22.5%), small car (17.1%), sedan (13.7%), truck (11.9%), van (4.2%), sports car (1.7%), coupe (1.7%), and station wagon (1.4%). Only use of minivans (29%) during 2004–2005 was significantly higher than expected (7%). We discuss several competing hypotheses about why bears selected minivans.”

http://jmammal.oxfordjournals.org/content/90/5/1041

Please do note that simply because some models might be more difficult to break into, every vehicle is a potential target. (One bear broke into a car for just a power bar wrapper.)

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Setting your car alarm will not keep a bear from breaking into your car, it will just wake up everyone in the campground when the bear gets in.

Leaving your dog in the car will not scare off the bear. One morning at the Yosemite Ahwahnee (Majestic) Hotel, a bellman found a car broken into by a bear the night before. An empty ice chest had been showing (and smelling to a bear) through the back window. The large family dog was cowering and whining under the steering wheel column.

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One bear was not breaking windows, it learned how to open car door handles, and the park recommended locking car doors (as well as removing and properly storing all scented items, etc.).

One who let himself in by opening an unlocked door became trapped in a car and was found sleeping on the back seat in the morning, but most who get stuck inside panic and tear up/destroy the vehicle interior trying to get out, including setting off side air bags and getting even more panicked.

The Truckee, California, police said of bears who broke into cars and locked themselves in: “Bears can manipulate car handles if the cars are left unlocked. . . After the bears go in, they may pull the door on themselves – that makes them stressed and causes them to thrash around, which can cause quite a bit of damage inside.”

A Steamboat Springs, Colorado newspaper report said: “Steamboat’s black bears have learned to open” (unlocked) “car doors, especially Subarus. Their door handles allow bears to wedge their paws in and pull the handle. Sometimes, the door will close behind the bear and trap it.”

Park Service photos or photos of a video played at visitor centers:

beardamagetocarNatl Park service photo: guy trying to bend his car door closed after bear opened it car /bear2: Car with the results of a bear break-in spilled on the ground.

From The Bear Facts (July 13 – July 19, 2003)

“Six vehicles were damaged by a bear in the Curry Village area last week, all vehicles contained food.

From the Daily Report of Thursday, July 31, 2003

Bears broke in to twenty vehicles last week, many containing a significant amount of human food. Most of the damage occurred in the Curry Village parking lots and at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Park Service photos or photos of a video played at visitor centers:

bear /car: Yosemite Park Service photo of a bear looking into a carbear about to climb in to car from NPS videobear climbing in to car from NPS video

To see bears breaking into cars and get the most current advice, watch the video at:

http://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=FDE421A6-91D6-8489-2DF28939BB23391D

I put park press releases about bear damage statistics and a link to the possible answer to why black bears so often choose minivans at:
Black Bear Management Trends

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you can be fined and your car can be towed for improper food storage from NPS video

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Notes on preventing bears breaking into your vehicle:

Besides getting everything with a scent out of your vehicle when you arrive in the park (see Food Storage below),

Before the trip (you can’t trust your own nose); look around the car, including under the seats, thoroughly, for that dried up french fry or stick of gum that fell under the seat. Take the gum wrappers out of the ashtray. Hey, no heavily scented air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror! Puuuuuulease get rid of the dashboard hula girl that emits the pina colada scent, (only $2.99 at the Frys one day Flash Sale and you couldn’t resist).

Check the glove compartment.

The child seat has food spilled on it, but scrubbing it before the trip might not be enough. You might need to try to clean it and then leave it sitting out, perhaps on the picnic table overnight.

Remove night crawlers and salmon eggs from the fishing gear.

No bottle of brake fluid or spray can of deicer showing, the bears don’t know it’s not food and will break into your car because they see an item the shape of a food container.

A day pack/backpack is a food container to a bear. Leaving an empty one, even a brand new one that has never had snacks in it, on the front seat could cause a break-in. The best policy is to have your car interior cleaned out of all gear visible through the windows or have everything covered. (After you first remove ALL the scented things.)

Bears have an incredible sense of smell and are able to smell things 3 miles away.

Air out your car if you eat burgers on the way to the park.

Lock your vehicle doors. Some bears have figured out how to open doors at the handle the same way you do.

A good way to wake up the whole campground is to set your car alarm. Then if a curious animal or clumsy person bumps the vehicle at night you’ve succeeded. (A car alarm won’t keep bears out of your vehicle).

below a warning note a Tuolumne ranger put on a car (not one of ours) and a bear’s eye view in the window:

bear food warning note on car: food in car thru window:

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Bears can get into locked rooftop car storage pods.

bear in storage pod on Jeep roof:

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This is what Yosemite Park recommends about food storage: (advice and rules from 2016 https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bears.htm )

and see: http://keepbearswild.org/food-storage/

Food Storage

“Bears have a voracious appetite. They also are incredibly curious and have an amazing sense of smell. This combination sometimes leads them to look for our high-calorie food. Sometimes bears that routinely get our food become aggressive, and sometimes have to be killed as a result. By storing your food properly, you can prevent a bear’s unnecessary death.

Please note that these food storage regulations have the force and effect of federal law: Failure to store your food properly may result in impoundment of your food or car and/or a fine of up to $5,000 and revocation of your camping permit”

black bear cubs on and under a picnic table NPS photo

What is food?
“Food” includes any item with a scent, regardless of packaging. This may include items that you do not consider food, such as canned goods, bottles, drinks, soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, trash, ice chests (even when empty), and unwashed items used for preparing or eating meals. All these items must be stored properly.

How to Store Your Food . . .

In your car

You may store food inside your car (out of sight, with windows completely closed) only during daylight hours. You may not leave food in a pickup truck bed or strapped to the outside of a vehicle at any time. Do not store food in your car after dark: use a food locker. Remember to clear your car of food wrappers, crumbs in baby seats, and baby wipes–and even canned food and drinks. Think about packing all your food and related items together for easy removal from your car upon arriving in Yosemite.”

Food lockers are available at every campsite, Housekeeping unit, Half Dome Village (Curry Village) tent cabin and at nearly all trailhead parking areas.

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In campgrounds, Housekeeping Camp, and Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) tent cabins

You must store all your food in food lockers. Bears may enter campsites even in your presence, and some will even check lockers to see if they’re latched.

Keep your locker closed and latched at all times, just like you would a freezer.

Only have the food out that you are actually using; if you’re not using it, put it back into the food locker.

Finally, treat your trash like food: keep it in your food locker or dispose of it in a bear-proof dumpster; do not leave it sitting out.

Food lockers are available at every campsite, Housekeeping unit, and Half Dome Village (Curry Village) tent cabin.

Food may be stored out of sight in hard-sided trailers and RVs, as long as windows, doors, and vents are closed when you’re not there. Food may not be stored in pop-up or tent trailers, or other soft-sided campers.

In your hotel room or cabin

You must keep all food inside your room; if you are not in the room, the windows and doors must be closed. Bears can easily break into cabins through an open door or open window.

In picnic areas and while hiking on the trail

Always keep your food within arm’s reach and don’t turn your back to your food; never leave food unattended. Bears may investigate picnic areas or backpacks for food even in your presence, so be alert.

NPS photo of a young bear on top of a large trail-side rock

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See also Food Storage while Climbing at: http://www.climbingyosemite.com/services/regulations/

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If animals get anything from you, NEVER try to get it back from them until they abandon it. Immediately clean up any scattered garbage or food.

black bear eating from ice chest NPS photo: national park service photo of a black bear eating from an ice chest, with a picnic table and gear in the background

Especially after dark, don’t turn your back on food and don’t leave a bear box in a campground open beyond the time it takes to get out what you need. If you arrive after dark, keep someone with the gear in the back of the pickup until you can unload and store it properly. At the very least, raccoons might be climbing into the back of the truck.

At bedtime, double check pants/jacket/day pack pockets for spare chocolate bars.

At bedtime, use a flashlight to check under the picnic table for lost potato chips and cooking items you forgot you set down on the ground during cooking. Below: a cook set down a container of pasta sauce under a picnic table bench on one of our winter trips and forgot about it. We found it with a quick flashlight sweep before we all moved to the campfire.

food container under table bench:

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Logistics on fitting everything in a campsite food storage locker, especially with a big group, are at: Using a campsite food storage locker

From The Bear Facts (July 13 – July 19, 2003)

A large untagged/uncollared bear has been seen in Upper Pines and the Wilderness Lot, checking for improperly latched food storage lockers. Visitors have reported this bear going from site to site, banging on the locker latch. Unfortunately, the bear obtained food on at least three occasions from improperly latched lockers.”

How to use the latches is at: Yosemite bear-proof food locker latching systems

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Please use the clip on the trash bin to lock it. If a bear gets into a dumpster on a hot day it can be a death trap.

If you notice one is un-clipped, please clip it.

save a bear use the clip:

Immediately report it to a ranger or campground host if the clip is missing from the dumpster.

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people too close to bear on picnic table nps photo: people, including children, too close to a bear eating on a picnic table

FAQ: How can I keep bears or coyotes or raccoons or … animals out of my campsite?

You can’t.

A bear may enter your campsite day or night, even in the presence of many people, dog(s) even large ones, a big campfire or lots of lights, even motion sensor lights. Running your vehicle engine or generator, playing loud music, motion-activated sound systems simulating a barking dog, trying various ‘repellents’ (mothballs, an open bleach container, pine-scented cleaner, fabric softener sheets or ammonia soaked rags hanging everywhere, dog or cat in-the-garden repellent, etc.) will not work.

Trying to set an alarm (pots and pans on top of a cooler, for example), might wake you up when a bear investigates the cooler, but will not give you enough time/any way to keep the animal from getting the food.

In Yosemite National Park, it is prohibited to possess or use pepper spray (including bear spray and other irritant gas devices), including ones you might have purchased for a trip to a park in the rocky mountains.

Don’t try spraying bear spray on your tent, clothes, etc. Glacier Park warns: “It” (bear spray) “is not intended to act as a repellent. Pre-sprayed objects may actually attract bears.”

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From a Yosemite Daily Report (2004) “Stay close to your food, and put it away as soon as you are finished eating. Bears may enter picnic areas, even when people are present, so be prepared to repel them.”

From a Yosemite Daily Report of June, 2004:

Bears are getting food from visitors that are too far from their food. (Farther than arms length is too far and any food behind the back is an invitation.)

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At the edge of some campgrounds you might see a trap:

bear trap Yosemite valley:

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from the Yosemite website in 2015, 2016 & 2017:

what to do if you see a bear

You may not see a bear during your visit because bears naturally avoid people. If you do see a bear, what you should do depends on the situation. In any case, always let a ranger know or leave a message at 209/372-0322.

If you are in a developed area (e.g., campground, parking lot, lodging area) or if a bear approaches you, act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling very loudly (don’t worry about waking people up if it’s nighttime). If you are with other people, stand together to present a more intimidating figure, but do not surround the bear. Bear spray/pepper spray is not allowed in Yosemite.

The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.

If you see a bear anywhere else, keep your distance (at least 50 yards, or about the distance four shuttle buses parked end to end would take up). If you get closer, you will be helping the bear become used to being around people.

Bears that become comfortable around people lose their natural fear of us and sometimes become too aggressive; sometimes they then have to be killed.

When a ranger sees a bear, the ranger may use non-lethal aversive tactics to chase the bear out of a developed area. During your overnight stay, expect to see and hear rangers patrolling public areas for bears. You may hear rangers yelling at and chasing bears. You may also see or hear rangers shooting noisemakers or non-lethal projectiles (such as rubber slugs from a shotgun or clear paintballs from a paintball gun). The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.

NOTE: These regulations and precautions help decrease the chance of personal injury or property damage. However, bear damage and confrontations are still possible even when all of the above guidelines are followed. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in citation and/or impoundment of property.

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(If you act to to scare a bear away, give the bear a wide,  w   i   d   e   path to run away).

Don’t do any of this if you are between a mama bear and her cub(s), or more importantly, NEVER get between mama and her cub(s).

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Bears hibernate all winter, so food storage isn’t as important then, right?

WRONG. The bears don’t truly hibernate all winter in mild winter places like Yosemite and the food storage rules are in effect all year.

We saw bear tracks in the snow in Yosemite on a January Ranger snowshoe walk, and one broke into a car (not one of ours) in Feb. 1999. (And there have been other winter break-ins we might not personally have heard of).

Plus, the raccoons and coyotes are everywhere in the campground in winter, especially at night. Raccoons know how to unzip tent doors.

Mid-November 2004, with 17 inches of snow on the ground at Tuolumne, the rangers reported:

“Tracey stepped out of the ski hut and nearly hit a small Black Bear with the door one evening. We have been seeing this bruin’s tracks for the last week visiting all the buildings, garbage cans and recycle cans in the Tuolumne and Tenaya area. Although there are no rewards habits die hard.”

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Photographers – if an animal notices you, you’re too close.

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For backpackers

There is a lot more at: Backpacking Advice, including thunderstorms, menu ideas and no-cook backpacking food, ways to keep down on weight and more.

From the website in 2016:

“While backpacking in the Wilderness

Bear resistant food containers (“bear canisters”) are required for overnight hikers throughout the Wilderness (counterbalance food hangs are no longer legal). In Yosemite and the southern Sierra, bear canisters are the only effective and proven method of preventing bears from getting human food.”

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Again, “counterbalance food hangs are no longer legal” in Yosemite and many other parks. Where they are still allowed, we don’t use that method. We can all figure that bears everywhere will eventually figure out how to get suspended food, so why be the first people to experience it at a park where they now allow counterbalance hanging or even have pole set up to use?

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From a Daily Report June, 2006:

“There is a bear frequenting the Mist trail. It has been observed with in a few feet of visitors! This is not o.k.! Please be sure to keep your food with arms reach when you sit down for lunch or look for a place to water the plants. Also, if a bear approaches you, make loud noises. Throw small sticks or stones towards the bear (aiming only for the rear of the bear and choosing smaller than quarter size stones). Always leave the bear an escape route. While this bear may seem tame, she is not. She is a wild animal with unpredictable behavior. Help save her life. Do not feed her and do not approach her.”

From The Bear Facts (July 13 – July 19, 2003)

“Several bears continue to obtain food from backpackers in the Little Yosemite Valley area, including the Sunrise Creek and Moraine Dome area. One bear has learned to snatch backpacks containing food from unsuspecting hikers who have left their packs on the ground while pumping water or using the restroom. Another bear has learned to intimidate campers, snatching their open bear canisters if they show signs of backing down. It is important for backpackers and hikers to always be aware of their surroundings and to watch for sneaky bears.”

From July, 2004 Yosemite daily report:

“Two yearlings are approaching visitors for food on the trail to Half Dome.
No matter how small, bears can be dangerous. Bears have been obtaining food left at the Half Dome junction. If you drop your pack to go up the dome, please take all food with you or leave in a canister away from your pack.”

Think you can outwit the bears by using some other method or other bear resistant container design than the approved containers? If you try and fail it could mean the bear will keep on trying to get human food and may have to be put to death. Zoos don’t want them and when the park tries to relocate them the mostly come back to where they found easy human food sources, or die trying to.

Bears are very smart animals. The bear ‘proof’ garbage bins have been redesigned many times by the park service. Bears have been used in circuses around the world because of their brains and gymnastic abilities. In backpacking areas some have been known to keep up the circus tradition by climbing on limbs above a suspended food bag and leaping to snag it with their claws on the way to the ground, so hanging food is no longer allowed in Yosemite and many other camping areas. Rock climbers occasionally report that bears pulled up food bags they hung over sheer rock cliffs. Bears don’t mind water and have swum out to a raft people thought they could hide food on.


bear swimming nps photo: a bear wearing a tag swimming across a fast flowing stream bear in creek:

At the top of the stairs at the beginning of the portage trail from Leigh Lake to String Lake in Grand Teton park there’s a bear box (standard metal footlocker style) with a sign on it reminding people to put all their food in it while they carry their canoe/kayak down the trail instead of leaving food sitting out unprotected.

bear box portage store food here:

On a trip a few years back in Grand Teton the rangers were prohibiting picnics in one popular area because a mom bear was teaching her cub to bluff charge picnickers to scare them away from their food.

a fed bear is a dead bear sign:

Below, a picture of a display in Grand Teton showing a fuel bottle with hole where a bear bit into it.

bottle bear punctured:

using a bear resistant food storage container has ideas for careful packing and use

canister:

(Some bear resistant food containers have been invented made of Kevlar, fabric and/or fabric aluminum have been invented, but are not allowed at many parks. Check in advance to see which brands of hard plastic models are okay where you go. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcans.htm)

Rent a bear can in Yosemite: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcanrentals.htm

Yosemite backpackers pages start at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/backpacking.htm

Grand Teton backpackers pages start at: http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/back.htm

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(2016) from https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bears-climbing.htm

Food Storage while Climbing in Yosemite.

Bears actively seek food left by climbers at the base of climbs. Do not leave any food, drinks, toiletries, or trash at the base of the wall. All food must be stored in an allowed bear canister or hung well up the cliff face (if you can reach food without climbing gear, so can a bear).

Each year, bears rip into numerous haul bags and packs at the base of various climbs. Every time they get food from a haul bag or backpack, they become more conditioned to human food. Help us break this cycle! Store all scented items properly at all times!

The Rules and Reasons

Never stash food unless it is properly stored: either in an allowed bear canister (available for rent at any wilderness center for $5) or hung well off the ground on vertical rock. If you can reach your food (or the rope tying it off) without climbing gear, it is not stored properly.

This includes daylight hours! If you are cragging at the base, the same rules apply: carry your food with you or rent a bear canister for $5. (Do not hang your food in a tree–it’s illegal and useless.)

Remove all food, drinks, toiletries, and trash from your car. Food lockers are available at the El Capitan Picnic Area (Manure Pile) and on the south side of El Capitan Bridge. Please do not lock these shared lockers.

If protecting these animals isn’t enough to motivate you, maybe a citation will do the trick. If your food is stored improperly, you will be cited for improper food storage (fine of up to $5,000).”

If you leave food in a bear box near a trailhead or climb, please leave a note attached with your intended dates of storage so a Ranger won’t clean is up when it looks like it has been abandoned.

Besides the food lockers (bear boxes) listed above, you can find more at trailheads listed here:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/trailheads.htm

Each trailhead should have some bear boxes (food lockers), except as noted in the charts.

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Yellowstone (black and grizzly) bear encounters info is at:
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearenc.htm

For our trips to Grand Teton National park, some required reading:
your safety in grizzly bear territory

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Why don’t the rangers just move the problem bears?

Daily Report – Yosemite National Park

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In the last month, we moved 4 yearlings to various locations outside of the Valley (but inside the park). They were moved in an effort to help them establish home ranges full of natural foods, rather than remain in Yosemite Valley where they are in close proximity to many sources of human food. So far these bears have not returned to the Valley, although they have traveled quite a bit. As a contrast, we moved an adult female this week that had already established her territory in the Valley. She returned in two days! This is why we rarely move adult bears-it’s a lot of work and they come back almost faster than we do.

and:

“Approximately 80% of relocations of adults fail. The failure comes in many forms. Most bears just return and continue to seek out human food. Some bears wander outside of the park boundaries and cause problems in places that are not equipped the bear proof facilities we have in the park. When this happens, they are often destroyed by California Fish and Game. Also, bears can wander outside the park boundary and be hunted. Finally, the bear population in California is very healthy, so when you move a bear, it is likely there is already a bear in that area that knows the good food sources. The new bear is forced to compete for a limited food source in a place it’s never been.

With yearling and subadult bears, there can be some success in moving (up to 40%), because they haven’t established their home range as clearly as adults.”

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nps black bear trash can 1960ish: black bear inspects a bear proof trash can 1960s or 1970s

bearand trash can NPS photo:

From the San Francisco Chronicle – June 6, 2004

People Create Bear Problem

by Tom Stienstra

In my latest visit to Yosemite this weekend, I’ve concluded it’s unlikely the bear problem will ever be solved here. There were 13 more bear incidents reported in the past week, bringing the total to 60 already for the spring season, up 97 percent from last year.

You probably know why, of course. It’s always been a people problem, not a bear problem.

For most park visitors, the bears resemble cartoon characters; seeing one validates the vacation. I’ve seen experienced campers on their last night leave out an open tub of butter on a picnic table to entice a bear into their camp, impress the family and get pictures.

Hey, if you were a bear, what would you rather eat? Grass, ants, termites and bugs under rocks, or a tub of butter?

At Yosemite, Yogi is definitely smarter than your average bear. Bears learn quickly each June that they can just amble into a campsite at about 8 p. m., merely glance at the day’s newly arrived campers, elicit shrieks and shouts and then nab any leftovers sitting out.

The bears are like UPS drivers on their rounds, going from campsite to campsite, with each bear working its nightly route. “So, whatcha got for little ol’ me?” Every day, a new camper shows up, and the shock-and-awe effect usually nets at least a leftover hot dog…

…Then there is the story of the tourists from Europe who didn’t think it was so funny.

This was in Wawona in south Yosemite, where the four tourists charged into the ranger station, shouting in hysterics that their “rental car had been bombed by terrorists.” The proof, they said, was the “powder residue from the explosive” all over the back seat.

Rangers examined the crime scene and discovered that the “powder residue” was actually pancake mix — along with a paw print in the middle of the back seat.

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Early Saturday morning on the De Anza College Outdoor Club 2013 winter Yosemite trip we found a torn open pack sitting just outside the entrance to one of the two-person tents. A raccoon had opened the tent and dragged it out, not even waking the people inside. In the second photo, the camper, not knowing how his pack got there, was concerned that perhaps his camera had been stolen, but that was not what the raccoon wanted. In the foreground of the third picture you can see the yellow chocolate bar wrapper (he and the raccoon share a liking for Toblerone bars). Yes, everyone had been asked to triple check their day packs, pockets, etc., before putting gear in their tents.

pack was dragged out of tent last night: a camper looking out of his tent to find that his daypack was dragged out of his tent that night by a raccoon dragging torn up pack back to tent winter 2013: a camper dragging his torn up pack back into his tent torn up pack contents: camper looks through pack that a raccoon took out of his tent in the middle of the night, in the foreground we see the empty chocolate bar wrapper student who did not check his pack at bedtime: three campers pointing at another camper sitting at the opening to his tent

In Yosemite, some raccoons have learned how to open tent door zippers. On the 2010 winter trip a guy put one of those suitcase mini-locks on the zipper pulls of his tent, thinking that it would keep a raccoon out. The raccoon just tore the tent fabric instead.

For a laugh, read more at: Camping Blunders

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First-timer’s instructions has instructions for beginning snow campers for the De Anza College Outdoor Club winter trip. Experienced people will probably pick up a few useful ideas.

leave a cooler in your truck bed

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see also: DEER hazards

and How to not collide with a deer with your vehicle