The Bear Facts!

El Capitan Yosemite National Park


It’s August 1997, and I’ve signed up for a three day seminar in Yosemite National Park titled “The Bear Facts.”   By the end of the three days, I will realize a better title might have been “72 Hours in the Life of a Bear Biologist.”    Julie and Kate have decided to put this seminar on for the first time to bravely introduce a handful of lucky people to a closer look than most people get at Yosemite’s black bears,  and the policies used to “manage” them.


Fitting I should come across this guy in Mammoth just b4 the seminar

We get to learn exactly where these valley bears sleep and eat… in some instances mere feet from where the millions of annual visitors travel.  We learn how they are tracked and measured and their unique history as Yosemite Valley bears.  We get a real feel for what it’s like being a bear biologist trying to keep these bears alive… and the valley visitors safe.   By day we get our special education and “behind the scenes” hikes.  By night we set a bear trap in hopes of getting a real intimate look at a darted sleeping bear.


At the end of the seminar,  the bottom line for me is,  I’m really glad we didn’t catch a bear after all!  Looking at the empty unsprung trap,  I first stood there feeling a little deflated that I wouldn’t get the chance to have my hands on one of North America’s most magnificent creatures.   I wouldn’t get to measure,  weigh and smell the musky fur of a sleeping black bear,  Ursus Americanus.   I wouldn’t get to pull open his mouth with my hands and see his huge teeth and feel his gums  (although we did get to handle skins and skulls).   I wouldn’t get to stretch his powerful limbs and feel his gigantic pads.   But now I realize,  I also wouldn’t  be bringing that one tricked and trapped bear one step closer to being killed.   For that’s why they trap the bears in the first place in Yosemite National Park…to see which ones have successfully adapted to human habituations,  and euthanize the chronic offenders.


Thrilled to learn what it’s like being a park employee,  and spending several days in the park with a couple of them learning from their vast experience was fulfilling enough.


I have taken several classes in Yosemite such as The Bear Facts and Birds of Prey and Animal Tracking.  Classes are offered through the Yosemite Conservancy.

Go to  events then click on the calendar at the bottom of the page to find something you too might enjoy!

Learning about radio collars and a whole lot more….
Checking the bear trap


Smearing peanut butter on the bag full of goodies to lure the bear into the trap


A type of owl not often spotted in the Valley…just outside our ranger’s house


Evidence on a car window


Wonder what goodies were left for a bear  in this car parked in the wilderness area parking lot


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: