Mapping (and Helping) Yosemite’s Bears

GPS collars are helping park staff understand the habits of the park's ursine residents.

Yosemite National Park

BEAR LIFE, STEP BY STEP: What would your map look like if someone were to painstakingly plot out everything you did or tried and every spot you visited during a two-day visit to a national park? There might be a line connecting your tent to a cantina, then a line from the cantina to a trail, then a line from the trail to a picnic area, then a line from the picnic area to a waterfall.

Times at each stopping point would give a good indication as to how long it took you to reach each resting/eating location, and maybe how long you spent there. It's a pretty fascinating bit of knowledge, and it is one that National Park Service wildlife managers are looking at in regards to the black bears of Yosemite National Park. Bears and Yosemite are a famous twosome, so much so that pamphlets advise visitors what to do upon encountering a bear (there are also those iconic yellow "Speeding Kills Bears" signs, too). So the service decided to employ GPS collars to see how much of the developed area of the park a bear might cover over a couple of days and where that bear might go. The result? A fascinating map that reveals at least one bear, in particular, covered an impressible swath of Yosemite in just a couple of days.

TWO DAYS IN AUGUST: "A handful of bears" are part of the program, says Yosemite's Facebook page, which provided a visual peek into what one particular bear was up to over two August days. The rambler's start and end points are rather close together, but from a Sunday to a Tuesday the bear called upon a spot close to Upper Pines Campground and a location not far from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. The ultimate plan for the GPS program is to "keep bears wild and visitors safe,"  says Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. For more on what's behind the bear maps and how Yosemite will employ the information on behalf of Yosemite's big-pawed denizens and its occasional human guests, ramble on.

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