More Bears Will Be Saved Thanks to Yosemite’s New Smart Tracking Website

Nearly 30 black bears were killed in Yosemite National Park last year when they were struck by visitors’ cars. Since 1995, there have been 400 vehicle-bear collisions.

In an effort to prevent these collisions and help save the lives of Yosemite’s bears, park rangers have launched Keep Bears Wild, a website that allows park visitors (and everyone else in the world) to track black bears that are wearing state-of-the-art GPS collars.

Not only will the website help visitors avoid bears, but it will also help rangers keep an eye on their habits to better protect them.

“I think people are going to be blown away,” Ryan Leahy, a wildlife biologist at Yosemite and the leader of the project, told the Associated Press. “It’s our responsibility to keep bears wild.”

About 500 black bears live in Yosemite National Park. Over the past three years, up to 20 of them have been fitted with GPS collars that ping their locations to a satellite. “Bears that frequent developed areas, or that are suspected of getting into human food in the park are fitted with GPS collars,” according to the Keep Bears Wild website.

The GPS collars have enabled park rangers to learn new things about the bears. For example, the bears start mating in May, not late June or early July, as previously thought. They also discovered that the bears are hardly sedentary – they roam up to 30 miles over a couple of days, sometimes climbing up steep, 5,000-foot canyon walls.

The locations of the bears are delayed on the website so people don’t try to track them down in real time, which would be a dangerous and not-too-smart thing to do. The rangers can see where the bears are, so they can quickly block off their access to camp sites, picnic areas and parking lots.

“These methods have reduced bears’ ability to obtain human food by preventing them from entering human development and proactively educating visitors about bears and enforcing food storage requirements,” the website notes.

In addition to preventing bears from getting hit by cars (the website also pinpoints the locations of vehicle-bear collisions) and preventing them from getting conditioned to human food sources, the Keep Bears Wild website is expected to help improve community relations when bears roam to areas outside of the park, and it will also help rangers “assess bear habitat and seasonal food preferences,” according to the website.

The project, which cost $279,000, was funded by the Yosemite Conservancy, which provides grants to the park based on the highest-priority needs. Saving the lives of bears is rightfully a high priority. Thanks to Yosemite’s bear management program, bear-related incidents have dropped from from 1,584 in 1998 to fewer than 100 last year.

“People love to see bears,” Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, told the AP. “Protecting them is something we can all do.”

This has been a pretty dismal year as far as the protection of bears and other wildlife is concerned. Earlier this month, President Trump – whom the Humane Society had correctly predicted would be a threat to animals everywhere — signed a bill that allows hunters to kill hibernating bears and bear cubs in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges, and to use cruel steel-jawed traps and snares to catch them.

Fortunately the Keep Bears Wild project is really positive news – especially nowadays, when bears need all the help they can get.

Photo credit: Pelle Sten

87 comments

Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a month ago

Awesome... But it does not matter how many wonderful applications are created; people need to be educated and need to care about wildlife in the first place.

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Telica R
Telica R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE3 months ago

Thank you for saving the bears

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

Why do people speed whilst driving in a National Park?

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Ana Luisa Luque M.
Ana Luisa Luque M.3 months ago

Anything to save the bears.

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Joy T
Joy T3 months ago

Sounds like a great idea. Let's hope it works!

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

Petition Signed

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Terri S
Terri S3 months ago

How about lowering the speed limit and enforcing it!!!

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Ruth C
Ruth C3 months ago

Saving these animals is what its about!

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Carl R
Carl R3 months ago

Thanks!!!

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