Encounters with bears rose 100 percent at Yosemite National Park in early June compared to the same period in 2016, and a trail has been closed to overnight camping as a result.
However, park rangers note in the official Yosemite Bear Facts blog that 2016 was a record low year for bear encounters. And incidents involving bears in the park are down 96 percent from a record high in 1998.
Yosemite National Park rangers have recorded 16 incidents involving bears so far in 2017, compared to 38 in all of 2016. Most of the most recent encounters took place in wilderness areas of the park.
Bears are being seen regularly along the Half Dome corridor and in Little Yosemite Valley, reports the blog. Most incidents involve bears seeking food, including in some cases rolling bear-proof food containers away from campsites. Rangers suggest campers keep bear containers within sight of their tents and pile noisy objects like pots and pans on them.
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As a result of bear activity, part of Snow Creek Trail near a footbridge has been closed to overnight camping.
Three bears have been hit and killed by vehicles in the park in 2017.
About 300 to 500 black bears live in Yosemite’s 750,000 acres – grizzly bears are no longer found in California. Black bears normally avoid humans but can be more aggressive if they learn to associate humans with food.
The National Park Service advises people who encounter a bear to keep their distance and avoid surprising the bear. Talking calmly helps the bear recognize you as a human and make yourself look as large as possible. Immediately pick up any small children. Remain calm, and do not scream or make sudden movements that could trigger an attack. And don’t make bear sounds, either.
If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways so you can keep an eye on the bear. Don’t run – bears will chase fleeing animals – and don’t climb a tree – black bears are good climbers.
In April, the park unveiled keepbearswild.org, which displays tracking data on black bears outfitted with GPS collars at Yosemite National Park. The bear’s exact location is delayed on the site to prevent people from tracking down individual bears. The collars also help alert rangers when a bear may be heading for trouble.