I saw a bear late yesterday. It was a beautiful 150-pound (or so) bear just finishing up his molt (so, he was mostly dark with some light patches). We’ve never caught the bear before; he’s untagged. It’s always nice to see an untagged bear in Yosemite Valley.

That said, it’s always scary to see an untagged bear in Yosemite Valley (particularly in eastern Yosemite Valley). Such bears generally haven’t been spending much time around people, but many new bears that spend time in Yosemite Valley begin to spend some time around people and begin losing their natural fear of us. These are the bears we start off not seeing in the campgrounds, but which, if they do get used to people,  that we begin seeing in the campgrounds. It usually happens quickly. One day, a bear is oblivious to human food, the next day he finds human food, and that’s day the bear’s behavior changes dramatically. They’re never the same after their first positive experience with human food.

I saw this bear in Curry Orchard, an apple orchard that was planted in the 1860s (I think 1864). It’s of great historical value because of its age and it’s of great interest to bears because of its apples.

Yet, people always want to see a bear and bears are less scary when they’re in trees. And people generally will get as close to wildlife as they comfortably can. The danger of people being so close to a bear in a tree isn’t so much to the people, but to the bear. The apple orchards provide a natural (although non-native) food to bears at a difficult time of year, but it’s also the place that bears get used to people being very close to them. So, bears learn that people aren’t so scary after all, making it that much easier, once they’re done eating apples, to wander into the nearby campgrounds in search of dessert.

We tell people this all the time. But so many of these people don’t care.

And, so this new bear is now habituated to people.