April 2009


I remember watching a sow and two yearlings crossing the river into Housekeeping Camp almost exactly three years ago today, when the water ran swiftly. The sow and first yearling jumped in and began swimming, but floated downstream quite a distance before reaching the other side. The second cub noticed. She ran upstream before jumping in the river, so that she wouldn’t end up too far downstream past her mother when she got to the other side.

Perhaps this was Yellow 91. She was first captured as a lone yearling later that year; quite possibly this same yearling. She was a smart bear who specialized in getting food out of lockers in Curry Village. She got food out of so many lockers that we began to wonder if she knew how to get into them even when they were closed. It’s always hard to know, considering so many people take the time to put their food in their lockers but don’t bother closing them all the way. If she did know how to get into these lockers, she found a way that we could never quite figure out. We will never know how she did it.

What is it that makes a bear a smart bear, or a shy bear, or an aggressive bear? I remember how difficult she was to scare away even when she was young. Some bears get wary with age; some bears get bolder with age. She got bolder with age, becoming almost immune to the shouts, the banging pots, the flashlights, the noisemakers, the rubber slugs; immune even to the cries of her own cubs, neither of whom lived to be a yearling.

Those unwary, those bold, those smart bears; those bears who approach people with little fear or even bluff charge them–these are the bears of legend. And these are the bears, like Yellow 91 last night, who enter traps and never again leave them alive. These are the bears who, like Yellow 91 at 2:55 this morning, take their last breaths next to a trap on a green tarp on a paved driveway at the wildlife office. These are the bears about whom we tell legendary stories in the hope that no more legends are made.

Yellow 91 (formerly Yellow 10), was a healthy, four-year-old, 162-pound, medium-brown sow. She is now but dust and legend.

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Today, I met Ken Burns after watching an hour’s worth of clips from his upcoming documentary, National Parks: America’s Best idea.

I’ve watched his documentaries on PBS for many years and have always enjoyed them. It’s almost surreal to have him do a documentary on my favorite topic and to see him in person! He’s a very articulate and interesting speaker and it’d be fun to just talk to him (or just listen to him) for a long time.

My favorite two parts of the documentary (that I’ve seen so far) are the introduction and a segment featuring my (now former) officemate, Shelton Johnson. The introduction really makes a point of how important national parks are, and in an interesting way. (I can’t really describe it further… you’ll have to watch in late September.) And, Shelton tells a story of a winter experience in Yellowstone, where he used to work, and concludes with, “A moment in time… in a place as wild as Yellowstone… can last forever.”

Love that quote of his.

You can learn more about the documentary and about national parks at http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/.

With a title like that, perhaps this should be a series…

Anyway, tonight, I talked to some campers who were completely freaked out about bears, so much so that they turned their generator on (after quiet hours) in hopes that it would deter a bear. Meanwhile, they had all their food out all over their campsite.

On the other hand, I talked to some long-time Yosemite campers who were completely comfortable with bears… and they also had food out (unattended in a nearby campsite).

So, based on my survey (n=2), it appears that there is no correlation between how scared of/comfortable with bears people are and how good they are about storing their food.

Of course, you could argue that the comfortable people just aren’t worried about it (and/or just don’t care if a bear gets their food and the consequences of that). But, how do you explain the freaked-out people not storing their food?

I saw a black-colored black bear near Cathedral Beach picnic area today. It’s only the ninth black-colored bear I’ve ever seen (out of the several-dozen different bears I’ve encountered in Yosemite)!

I worked a night shift tonight educating people about bears and proper food storage. While I was talking to the wildlife techs on duty, they received a call from dispatch over the radio: “Please respond to the Village Store: skunk at register 3!”

This is a great post about saving the world by saving animals.

NRDC: My Daughter Saved the World! So Can You

The Jews and Muslims share a saying: If you save a life, it’s as if you saved the world. They’re referring to humans; I would go a step further to include animals, too.

Frankly, I would not have said so a few months ago. But that was before Pidgie. (Read more…)

On this warm spring night, I begin my first blog post! I wonder what’s taken me so long. I like to write and I have plenty to write about. The question is if I have the motivation. We shall see, won’t we?

So, what will I write here? I suppose work will be a frequent topic… I probably get plenty of blogable stories from there. My non-work life is probably less interesting, but some tidbits will appear every now and then.

Well, I should go to sleep… I suspect I will have a long day of work tomorrow… if I decide to work at night and chat with lots of visitors and probably a bear or two.