[In this entry: Bear hit by cars - food storage - backcountry problem areas - stats. If you're looking for bear basics and some photos, go to my Yosemite Bear page.]
The NPS bear folks have released their latest facts and figures and there's good news and bad news. The bad news: 10 bears have been hit by cars in the park so far in 2006. Just because it's comfy driving your Beemer at 55 on the park roads, doesn't mean you should, especially in the evening. SLOW DOWN! It's not for the gas mileage, it's not because of the ticket, it's because bears, deer and endangered owls who swoop onto the roads nab critters lit up by headlights get hit by cars and killed!
Also, "bear activity has really picked up". It has cooled off and the days are getting shorter and the bears feel it. They have gone into calorie accumulation mode and are out for as much food as they can stuff in their faces. There have been numerous car break-ins and for as little as a whiff of hand sanitizer. This means it is extremely important to be smart about food storage and garbage disposal. The other day some idiot couldn't fit his bag of garbage in the can down by Valley View (the pullout that looks back up the Valley and across at Bridal Veil), so he put it *next* to the garbage can. Excuse me, but what a dumb shit. I'm a non-violent guy but I would have liked to punch him. By the time we got there, a bear was digging through it and I didn't appreciate have to chase a way a bear and then pick up your half-eaten chicken and your kid's diapers. Thanks.
In case you don't know this, "problem" bears get killed by the park service every year. So to the guy who left his garbage out, you are contributing to creating a "problem" bear. Then end point of that is that the bear will die and you will have killed it. Congrats dude. You just bagged your first carnivore. You may have stuffed it, but unfortunately you won't be able to put on the wall, because it probably won't actually get killed until next year.
On the good side, compared to 1998, bear incidents are way down, so the word does seem to be getting out notwithstanding the dumb shits at Valley View.
If you're hiking, problem areas this year are out by Moraine Dome (that's essentially right where you leave the Little Yosemite Valley no camping zone as you hike up the Merced) which is not surprising because the LYV area always seems to have problem bears. Too many day hiker picnics to steal basically. Other areas are near Glen Aulin, Vogelsang, Illouette Canyon and Lyell Canyon. These are all pretty high-use, so that's not too surprising.
Some fun stats for bear activity as of August 12
Those are encouraging numbers. It means that bears are returning to a more natural lifestyle less dependent on garbage and raiding. That means that you don't see them as often and, truth be told, I hope that some day seeing a bear in Yosemite will be the relatively rare event it once was. It already has changed a lot. I remember in 1998 camping up in Tuolumne we would have 3-4 bears through our campsite every day. Now most times I'm up there I don't see a bear at all. I absolutely love bears, but I'm encouraged that I'm now as likely to see them in the backcountry as at a campground. Hopefully we can imagine a day when they reward is so small that they just won't put up with the noise and bustle of the campgrounds at all.
SOURCE: uh... I think my wife printed this out from the NPS Daily Report.