Now you can track journey of Yosemite bears online
This Nov. 1, 2016 photo provided by Drew Wharton shows a female black bear wearing GPS collar in Yosemite National Park. (Drew Wharton via AP)
FRESNO, Calif. — Wildlife enthusiasts around the world can now follow the daily journey of Yosemite National Park’s black bears from their laptops and smartphones, tracking the iconic animals as they lope up steep canyons and cross vast distances in search of food and mates.
Park rangers unveiled keepbearswild.org on Monday showing where select bears fitted with GPS collars are heading. The tracking tool, which pings the bears’ steps from satellites, have already revealed surprises, wildlife biologists say.
“I think people are going to be blown away,” said Ryan Leahy, a wildlife biologist at Yosemite National Park who leads the project. “It’s our responsibility to keep bears wild.”
A bear’s location is delayed so people aren’t tempted to track it down in real time, rangers said. But the tracking collars alert rangers so they can block a bear from going to a campground or parking lot in search of food.
The goal of the website is to draw in the public so they know to slow down while driving and properly store food when they visit the park’s towering granite cliffs, charging waterfalls and abundant wildlife, including up to 500 black bears.
Yosemite attracted more than 5 million visitors last year.
Too often, black bears — many of which are actually brown in Yosemite — are hit and killed by drivers on Yosemite’s winding roads. The website shows where 28 bears were struck by cars last year, many fatally.
The park has used up to 20 GPS collars for the last three years, learning that bears in the park begin mating in May, more than a month earlier than previously thought, rangers said.
Leahy also said that the tracking devices show that bears move more than 30 miles (48 kilometres) in a day or two, moving with ease up 5,000-foot (1,524-meter) canyon walls.
The Yosemite Conservancy has spent $1.2 million since 1998 to help the park manage bears. The latest project cost $279,000, rangers said.