A Busy Night With Bears

In Bears, Inside the NPS
White 60 by Tammy Evans

Jeffrey Trust is not only the voice of the National Park Service on Twitter (@YosemiteNPS) he’s also one of the rangers who spend their nights chasing bears out of the campgrounds. Somehow, after a full night of chasing bears he still has enough energy to sit down in front of the computer and write about the nights adventures (must be the chocolate). Here’s an excerpt from Jeffery’s blog after a very busy night with the bears.

We decided to start off our night by visiting the picnic areas to educate people about bears and make sure no bears were around. Before we even had a chance to head that way, there were two bear calls at the same time–one in Curry Village and the other in Upper Pines Campground. The wildlife techs responded to Curry Village while we went over to Upper Pines, where we found a bear vigorously scratching himself (or… something) at the edge of the campground. We chased him off, and since there were two campground rangers working in Upper Pines, we decided to try again to visit the picnic areas.

A Yosemite Bear is right at home among visitors. Photo by torhutchins

A Yosemite Bear is right at home among visitors. Photo by torhutchins.

Alas, we were passing Camp 4 when there was a call for a bear at Housekeeping Camp. The wildlife techs were still busy with the Curry Village bear, so we turned around and met Ryan, the lead wildlife tech, there (he’d been working in the office). We found the bear walking on the bike path along the road by Housekeeping Camp. We followed him for a short while, then he crossed the street (the people in the car were probably confused why we had them stopped for a good 10 seconds, but their question was answered when the bear lumbered across the road in front of them). He swam across the river, headed toward the day use parking (aka Camp 6).

So, we all drove over there and eventually found him skirting the parking lot, but he then went behind a fence and was in an area away from the parking lot. We went to the other end of the fence (few hundred yards away) to see if he’d continued in the direction he’d been traveling, and to make sure he didn’t enter the parking lot. We stayed there a few minutes and decided we weren’t going to see him, so we walked back into the parking lot, only to have a visitor say something about a bear in a car.

Aw it's like a teddy bear...let's get closer by Sean and Erica

A bear makes it’s way through the parked cars in the Curry Village Parking area. Photo by Sean and Erica.

I interpreted the visitor to mean a bear had been in a car–surely the bear we were following couldn’t be in a car already. I walked up to the car… to find the same bear we’d been following inside the car, focused on a box of granola cereal. Ryan came over with his shotgun and the bear exited the car, to be hit with three rubber slugs as he ran toward the fence–and vanished.

Now, this is a solid wood fence with vertical slats. I tried to chase the bear once Ryan was done shooting, assuming there was a missing slat I could squeeze through, but the bear seemingly ran through an invisible gap in the fence. I was bewildered. After a minute of searching, we found a very small space beneath the fence that he had squeezed through.

Bear leaving a vehicle after a break in. Photo by Tammy Evans

Bear leaving a vehicle after a break in. Photo by Tammy Evans.

After taking the report, talking to the owners of the car after they returned, etc., we had some quiet time. Then, one of the campground rangers reported seeing a bear in Upper Pines again, so we headed there since we were close by. We drove around, checking for food storage and bears, and we saw people in a campsite looking at what we assumed (correctly) was a bear. We got out and headed toward the bear, catching sight of it. I stopped at the small creek (which is maybe six or eight feet wide and about a foot deep) because there wasn’t an obvious crossing right there, but my partner inexplicably kept going through the creek. (I remember thinking to myself, “She’s just going to go splashing through, eh?”) Well, she underestimated the creek and took probably only one or two steps before falling face-first into the creek. After checking to see if she was ok (she started to get up and head toward the bear), I crossed the creek and yelled at the bear once before breaking down in laughter, joined by my partner. It was quite funny. Oh, and there was a campsite full of visitors who saw the whole thing. (I’m glad it wasn’t me…)

Be sure to read the rest of the nights adventures and more about bears over at Jeffrey’s blog.

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