YOSEMITE (CBS SF) — Officials at Yosemite National Park announced the launch of a new website Monday aimed at protecting the park’s black bears that includes an online bear tracker.
The website — KeepBearsWild.org — offers tips for park visitors on how they can keep black bears safe and exclusive photos and videos of the animals in addition to the first bear tracker available from the National Park Service, according to a press release issued by the park.
“KeepBearsWild.org is an important way to raise awareness, appreciation and respect for Yosemite’s beloved black bears,” said Yosemite National Park Acting Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “Our message is simple: everyone can keep bears wild by driving slowly, storing food properly and staying at a safe distance when you see them.”
The bear tracker page of the website features an interactive map of the park that shows where the three black bears that have been fitted with GPS collars so workers with the bear management program can monitor their behavior. Those bears either are known to frequent developed areas of the park or are suspected of getting into the human food of campers and other visitors.
Delayed tracking of some bears will be shared with the public on the bear tracker page, though site managers are taking great care that sensitive data, such as den locations and exact coordinates, won’t be shared in real-time to keep visitors who would seek out in-person encounters bears from finding the animals. In fall and winter months, delayed tracks will be removed to ensure the safety of these animals during hibernation.
The map also shows the locations of the nearly two dozen reported vehicle collisions with bears that happened in 2016. While some of the incidents ended with the bear involved running off after suffering no ill effects, park officials say over 300 vehicle collisions with bears on Yosemite roads have resulted in many fatalities. Vehicle-bear collisions are one of the leading causes of death for bears in Yosemite.
More than $1.2 million in Yosemite Conservancy grants since 1998 have funded a variety of bear-management tools for the park, including the creation of the new website. Conservancy support has also gone to improving monitoring and tracking technologies, purchasing and installing thousands of bear-proof food lockers for campers and funding research and educational programs. As a result of the programs, have reduced the number of annual bear-related incidents in the park significantly. Incidents dropped from 1,584 in 1998 to fewer than 100 in 2016.
Yosemite National Park is home to between 300 and 500 American black bears.