Despite having many bear stories, I’m always at a loss to tell one when someone asks me for my best/favorite/coolest/most exciting bear story. The other day, I realized that one of the stories I don’t tell very often is one of my favorites (and involves one of my favorite bears).

One the night of July 4, 2007, I was using radio telemetry to try to catch up to a bear known as Orange 5. As I got closer, I finally caught a glimpse of her in the distance, in an Upper Pines campsite. There was a man in the campsite, standing not more than a few feet from his picnic table, with his back to the picnic table. He was doing something like washing dishes–I don’t remember exactly.

Yes, there was Orange 5 and a man in the same campsite together. Orange 5 put her paws up onto the picnic table bench and nosed around, looking completely at home, completely unconcerned–like she belonged there, like she was the man’s pet. Yet, she was a mere few feet from this man! I remember watching this several-second episode with some surprise. It was surreal. She was just so comfortable so close to this person!

Not finding anything to eat, she went to the next campsite and did the same thing, before I caught up to her and chased her away.

To this day, the man has no idea he had a 200-pound bear a few feet from him in his campsite!

That is how stealthy, quiet, and sneaky Yosemite’s black bears are.