YOSEMITE – For the first time, National Park Service wildlife managers in Yosemite will map and monitor the movement of the park’s black bears in real-time to help wildlife managers understand the animals’ activities beyond Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Conservancy donors are contributing nearly $70,000 to purchase GPS collars to track the bears. (Photo by Lindsay Kaun via Yosemite Conservancy)
The project will provide currently unknown information about how bears are using the majority of the park’s wild habitat. Wildlife managers have successfully tracked the movements of black bears in developed areas in Yosemite for over a decade using radio telemetry. However, once a bear leaves a developed area, its movements are difficult to track.
“This project will expand the park’s understanding of Yosemite’s black bear population, and help to keep bears wild and visitors safe,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “Yosemite Conservancy funding helps us to achieve our bear management goals of keeping healthy natural populations of black bears as independent from human influence as possible.” Neubacher added that study results would be used as part of interpretive programs to teach visitors about bears’ behavior.
The full breadth of the park’s bear management programs, many of which are supported by Yosemite Conservancy, have reduced bear incidents involving damage to personal property by 95 percent since 1998, according to the National Park Service. Since 1989, Yosemite Conservancy donors have contributed $2.1 million to support bear protection and education programs, such as the construction and installation of over 2,000 bear-proof food storage lockers throughout the park.
The organization also rents bear-proof food canisters used by backpackers and supports educational programs like the Junior Ranger program, an interactive program that helps children develop an appreciation for protecting natural resources by teaching them about park wildlife, habitat and history. The National Park Service’s “Red Bear-Dead Bear” signs mark sites where bears have been hit by vehicles to encourage drivers to slow down.
“We’re committed to helping the park protect Yosemite’s wildlife so future generations can experience thrills like seeing a black bear ambling through a valley meadow,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Mike Tollefson. “Those are memories that last a lifetime and encourage people to be stewards of the park.”
Tollefson said the GPS technology to be used in the bear program has been applied successfully in an effort funded by Yosemite Conservancy to reestablish and monitor bighorn sheep in Yosemite. The new GPS program for bears and existing radio telemetry tracking allow park personnel to prevent incidents and help stem bears’ reliance on human food sources. Bears that become conditioned to human food stored or disposed of improperly often break into vehicles and even homes.
Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. The work funded by Yosemite Conservancy is visible throughout the park, from trail rehabilitation to wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering and wilderness services. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided more than $81 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Learn more at www.yosemiteconservancy.org or call 1-800-469-7275. Additional details on bear management are also at http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/bear-management.htm.