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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Black bears, east & west on 02/20/2008 22:29:47 MST Print View

I've backpacked several hundres miles of the AT and some trails in Yoosemite.

Why are Yosemite black bears so much smarter than, say Shanendoah Nat'l. Park (or other AT) black bears?

On the AT I used only tree-hung food stuff sacks with no problems. In Yosemite I'd be afraid to try that.

Are Yosemite bears THAT much more habituated? Seems Yosemite trails are no more heavily travelled then the AT, if as much.

Eric

Nat Lim
(LithiumMetalman) - F

Locale: Cesspool Central!
Smarter than the average bear on 02/20/2008 22:53:56 MST Print View

Ya, Yosemite Bears are smart!!!

The scary thing, after talking to a local Yosemite Ranger last time I was there, is that the bears are figuring out how to open the bear buckets, steal backpacks, open car doors, etc...those bears are smart.

Perhaps it is habituation, perhaps it's the tourist feeding them, or perhaps, the most likely case is that the bears are in an area where the influx of people visiting is high; b/c of the constant flux of people milling in an out of Yosemite, bears (being all ninja like) are able to watch people perform the same motions day in and day out eg. open car doors to get to food, open backpacks to get to food, open bear buckets to get to food. With all this exposure it seems like the bears pick a thing or two.

Monkey see, Monkey do?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Black bears, east & west on 02/21/2008 00:38:14 MST Print View

I hate that Ninja thing they do.

I was cooking up a pot of food to share with my backpacking partner and it started to rain. We scooped our meal out of the pot and ran and stood under a tree about 15 feet away. By the time we got to the tree and turned around a bear was licking our pot clean!

Really freaked me out to think that he was hiding and watching us (Ninja like), waiting for that momentary lapse... which we gave him... Fortunately, the rest of our food was packed away safely out of reach.

Edited by skopeo on 02/21/2008 00:38:50 MST.

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Black bears, east & west on 02/21/2008 10:47:40 MST Print View

I don't know...maybe the East coast ones are more timid cause they are more heavily hunted?

All I know is that I have hiked in the SE for several years now and never actually laid eyes on a bear (heard one in the Smokies after dark one time). In contrast I have backpacked once in CA (Sequioa and Kings Canyon NPs last year), and I saw 3 on that trip. Probably just a random coincidence, but still a little wierd.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
RE Blackbears east and west - hunting pressure? on 02/21/2008 13:35:27 MST Print View

Matthew - I suspect that your speculation that hunting pressure modifies bear behavior is perceptive. I'm not so sure that the east / west distinction is. For example, bear population in the Adirondacks (east) and Quetico - Superior (midwest) both have reputations for being highly capable camp robbers.

Love to have a wildlife biologist weigh in but think that in the absense of population level behavior modification, any bear will adroitly find and utilize any food source in its territory. In Maine, I don't worry about them at all. Neither does anyone who I know. Hunting, especially as practiced here (baiting)removes individuals that are relatively unafraid of humans.

I am not advocating hunting or baiting - just speculating. Its the topic of rather hot debate here - no need to open that can of worms 'cause I won't argue.

The other variable may be density of recreation (ie how much available food is being carried thru a bear's territory). Part of this may besimple statistical probability - increased chance of crossed paths.

Where the two varibles amplify each other there are more incidents (ie high rec density combined with high bear populations combined with low hunting pressure lead to high incidence).

Interestingly in the east there is a fairly high incidence of bear encounters in suburban environments where the bears are capitalizing on trash cans instead of food bags.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Black bears, east & west on 02/21/2008 13:41:43 MST Print View

Momma bears teach the baby bears what they have learned.

Bears are quite smart, when given the chance will learn and teach the next generation ;-) Yosemite bears are indeed very habiuated. It may be the amount of people around and easy pickings as well.

A good example might be Rainier's bear policy of 3 strikes and dead - hence the bears learn fast to not come back.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Not East Coast/West Coast -- It is Yosemite on 02/21/2008 15:35:11 MST Print View

I don't think it is an East Coast/West Coast thing, I think it is a Yosemite thing. In Yellowstone, they suggest keeping your food in your car. In Yosemite, the black bears will rip the top off of your car. I think it is because in Yosemite, they used to feed them (from the dumpsters). They used to do some weird things in Yosemite, like create a big bonfire and then toss it over the side of the cliff (not sure which cliff, but into the valley). I'm sure it looked really cool, but not exactly natural. The other factor is that there are lots and lots of black bear in California because they killed off the Grizzly there (except for on the state flag).

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Not East Coast/West Coast -- It is Yosemite on 02/21/2008 19:43:03 MST Print View

For the East, I've seen bears in the Smokies and in Shenandoah. Out West, one night I heard people banging pots and yelling to scare away bear(s) in Sequoia - my son and I were both too tired and fell back asleep. In Yosemite I did not see or hear any bears - again I was tired - one could have walked on me and I wouldn't have woke up : ), but I did see a bear trap upon my return to my car...

beartrap

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Not East Coast/West Coast -- It is Yosemite on 02/22/2008 11:08:54 MST Print View

You know what is interesting though, people used to hand feed the bears in the Smokies, and those bears still never got to the point of ripping apart cars. I agree that it is probably an anomaly just in Yosemite and to a lesser extent maybe Sequoia/Kings Canyon.

It's kinda like this documentary I watched on lions a while back. Lions don't normally climb trees, but in this one NP in Africa some of the individual lions started climbing trees. Wierd.

Maybe the bears in Yosemite just pass this behavior down through the generations like an earlier poster suggested.