Rangers at Yosemite National Park are in a constant battle to keep wild black bears — with their ultra-keen noses and powerful paws and jaws — far away from humans.
For the last 16 years, park rangers have done their best to warn visitors about the perils of leaving food in their cars, which a bear can easily peel open for a quick treat. And now a bear management team has begun outfitting bears with sophisticated GPS tracking collars to better understand their movements.
Overall, reported bear encounters have plunged by 92 percent since 1998, when the park embarked on a concerted public education campaign.
Despite their long-term progress, park rangers have lost ground in the battle this year.
The instances of bears raiding campgrounds and parking lots for human food are up by 35 percent from Jan. 1 to Oct. 19 compared to the same period last year— the second such increase during the state’s three consecutive dry years. Officials say the heightened bear activity may be partly caused by the drought cutting the supply of berries and other natural bear food.