For anyone who has ever pondered the question what bears do all day, now is your chance to find out. Yosemite National Park, with funding support from the Yosemite Conservancy, will begin to track black bear movements in real-time throughout the park. The data will be made available to the general public so you can see how far they move in a day (up to 30 miles), where they like to hang out, and what happens when they leave park boundaries.
For the past 10 years, bear movement was tracked using radio telemetry, a system in which radio signals convey information from one location to another. The downside of this system — once a bear leaves a developed area, its movements are tough to track.
The National Park Service now plans to buy GPS collars that will monitor all the black bears, providing insight into how they use the majority of Yosemite’s vast backcountry space. A similar GPS program has already been used to understand the movement of Yosemite’s bighorn sheep population.
The Bear Tracker website displays data transmitted via satellite from the bear collars, making it available to all of us to explore the lives of these animals. You will also be able to see when and where the last vehicle-bear collision occurred in the park — sadly, there were over 30 incidents last year alone. The rangers hope this real-time GPS information can help them divert bears before they come into harms way or become too reliant on human food by hanging out in developed areas.
A quick look at the Bear Tracker shows the position of three black bears — most likely still in hibernation as the backcountry is covered in feet of snow or perhaps getting ready to emerge from their dens.
In order to keep the bears safe from humans, the GPS data is delayed. This is completely understandable, although it might be nice to know if black bears are in the area of your campsite at say Rancheria Falls — a notorious spot for black bear sightings near Hetch Hetchy. But you are already practicing bear safety techniques, right?