Track hundreds of black bears in Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite National Park is home to hundreds of black bears and the park is hoping to keep the creatures wild and away from humans and their food.
That’s the thinking behind the California park’s new site, KeepBearsWild.org, which launched this week to protect the black bears known for roaming through the beautiful valleys, meadows and forests of the park.
The interactive site is also home to the National Park Service’s first online bear tracker.
The new tracker shows where GPS-collared bears are located, but with a time delay. This to protect the bears’ precise location, which could be misused by bear-loving humans or even hunters. The whole point is to protect the furry creatures.
The Yosemite Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit that has brought in funding to protect the bears for years, said sensitive data like den locations and super-specific location coordinates are not being shared in real time. The group is also not sharing how long of a delay is on the site, and in the fall and winter hibernation spots will be protected.
Before the site’s launch, this same data was used for park wildlife biologists to better understand bears’ habits and patterns, and most importantly, how to manage the creatures in one of the most visited national parks in the country. The park wants to keep bears out of developed areas, so tracking and knowing where they are helps.
Image: yosemite conservancy/Nigel Voaden
A black bear cub is cute from afar.
A big issue has been the storage of food, as bears can quickly become accustomed to vistors’ picnics and then lose their fear of humans, returning again and again to tasty spots and becoming aggressive.
The park has installed thousands of bear-proof food lockers, and with help from other education, tracking and conservancy programs, bear-related incidents have apparently dropped from 1,584 in 1998 to under 100 in 2016.
The site also has information about how to safely view bears and how to report a bear sighting that isn’t on the map.
Male black bears weigh more than 300 pounds and females average 150 pounds — and both have very healthy appetites. No matter how breathtaking it is to spot one, that’s just too much bear. Instead of using the site to track one down, the map seems like a perfect guide on how to stay far, far away.