October 2009


Like my friend and coworker, Tori Seher, I’ve noticed that bears seem to like minivans. Frequently, such perceptions are not true–but it turns out that this one is!

Tori and two other researchers decided to look at the data and they found some interesting things. Not only are minivans the most frequently broken-into vehicles, but they’re also disproportionally broken into. That is, they’re not most frequently broken into because they’re more common. During the two years when they were counting both vehicle types and incidents, minivans made up only 7 % of all vehicles, but 29% of all vehicle breakins. On the other hand, sedans made up 28% of all vehicles but only made up 14% of all breakins. My perception is that SUVs are frequently broken into, and, indeed, SUVs were the second most frequently broken-into vehicles (but that mostly reflects their popularity).

So, why are minivans so frequently broken into? I think it’s two things: they’re easy to get into (bears get into a lot of minivans by simply popping the window out–often causing little damage to the glass or the frame–as compared to other vehicles, in which they often have to bend the door frame down). The other thing is that minivans may be more likely to carry children, who are more likely to spill food and drinks–which would also attract bears. (These are two of the hypotheses put forth in the study.)

If you have a minivan, should you worry during your Yosemite visit? No–as long as you remove all your food, drinks, toiletries, trash, and any other scented items from your car. After all, only 9% of the minivans broken into definitely were food-free. (Bears aren’t perfect.) So, if your car is clean, there’s a slim chance a bear will break into it.

You can read the article in the Journal of Mammalogy.

White 60 exiting an SUV in front of me, July 2007. (NPS Photo by Tammy Evans)

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A few months ago, I posted a story about a bear who opened a car car door then got stuck in the car when the door closed behind him.

Apparently, this isn’t uncommon, because it just happened in Colorado. (I’ve heard bears in Colorado have also figured out to use the door handles to open car doors.)

Mail Online

We’re going to need some backup here: Car thief turns out to be… a hungry bear

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 4:02 PM on 16th October 2009

With the alarm blaring and a shadowy figure rummaging around in the vehicle it looked like just another car theft in progress.

But when the police arrived they realise they might need more than handcuffs to collar this intruder.

For it was not a human, but a bear, that had lumbered into the vehicle.

The animal had apparently crept up to the unlocked car, opened the door and climbed inside.

Read the rest of the article (includes pictures!)…

For days and days, the weather forecast had called for five or more inches of rain in Yosemite Valley. While we tend to be skeptical when we see forecasts like this, we also worry a bit. After all, it was rain that caused the 1997 flood (contrary to popular belief, snowmelt was a relatively minor factor in that flood compared to rainfall).

The forecast was right! Yosemite Valley received 5.5 inches of rain (Mariposa Grove got 9 inches)! As a result, there was water in all the creeks. Yosemite Falls was remarkably full (even the next day). Lots of smaller waterfalls were flowing well. The river was rushing. It was like spring in October.

Seeing Yosemite Falls full was like unexpectedly encountering an old friend. Since I first wrote this in a tweet, someone pointed out to me that our geologist, Greg Stock, says something similar in this short video about Yosemite Falls (which also features Shelton Johnson). It just goes to show you how exciting it is to see Yosemite Falls rejuvenated

Talking to my coworkers yesterday was like talking to a bunch of first-time Yosemite visitors–everyone was excited about the water.

This was my view of the Valley on  my way to work after the storm.

This was my view of the Valley on my way to work after the storm.

Just a few hours later, all was sunny and bright!

Just a few hours later, all was sunny and bright!

Yosemite Falls has early-summer flow!

Yosemite Falls has early-summer flow!

Dennis Olson writes:

We are all like bears. We are omnivores and eat a wide variety of foods. So do bears. We walk on two legs. So do bears sometimes… To Native people, bears are us, or at least a part of us. That wild, untamable side of us is the part that becomes the bear, when we let it. Bears put on the intellectual skins of humans and walk among us. We put on the emotional skins of humans and disappear into the dark mystery of the forest.

After many years of using this quote, I’m still finding it more and more true each year. I’ve written about several examples of bears putting on the intellectual skins of humans. I’ve also seen bears stand on two legs and maybe even take a few steps. But, I’ve never seen this:

(If the video bored you and you didn’t watch it to the end, go back and watch the last few seconds.)

PS: As interesting as it is to see a video like this, I can’t help but be frustrated that so many people don’t know how important it is to scare bears from Yosemite’s developed areas (make sure you know the local rules wherever you happen to see a bear… you wouldn’t want to scare away a bear in Yellowstone, for instance).

The first snow of the season is always exciting, and today it has come.

I slept in rather late and when I awoke, I noticed it was dark outside, which reminded me there was a chance or rain or snow today. So, I looked more carefully outside and saw that it was precipitating! And I looked toward the ground, and found it covered in white. It was snowing!

Where I live, around 6,000 feet, we got about an inch of snow. Sort of nice. But am I ready for winter yet?

Clearing storm as viewed from Turtleback Dome webcam

Clearing storm as viewed from Turtleback Dome webcam. (Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Association: please support YA!)