Yosemite National Park Bans Human Food!

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Last Updated: Oct 4, 2016

Human Food Ban in Yosemite Valley Stems Basket Stealing

A recent study found out that the Yosemite National Park’s tough rules on food storages reduced the amount of human food consumed by black bears by 63%. Visitors of the park are advised to lock up everything including baby wipes to bratwurst.

Home to hundreds of black bears, though not the exact count, Yosemite National Park is a place where the bears seek out human garbage and food. Following a record encounter with 1,584 bears in 1998, the park officials drafted and enacted new food storage requirements to restrict bears from stealing food and garbage from the park’s visitors. The measures were aimed to prevent deaths of bears and human-bear contacts, because food-reliant bears eventually became aggressive, according to the park’s officials.

Lately, the Yosemite spends $ 500,000 every year on outreach program, supplies, and activities aimed at preventing bears from accessing human food from the more than 4 million visitors who flock the park annually.

In reference to the new study, which made track of the diets of nearly 200 bears by analyzing hair samples, the new stringent measures seem to work. From chemical signatures obtained from hairs, it is possible to differentiate between human and wild sources of food. The observations were publicized in the March issue of the journal frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Jack Hopkins, lead study author and a wildlife ecologist, University of California, Santa Cruz, said that they found out the diets of bears noticeably changed since the enactment of the proactive measures to keep human food off the park since 1999.

Only 13% of bears that ate human food came from anthropogenic or human sources between 2001 and 2007 according to Hopkins’s findings. This was similar to earlier park’s findings between 1915 and 1919, when just a few thousand visitors made the long journeys in to the Yosemite Valley. Hopkins analyzed the early diet of Yosemite’s black bear by snipping its hair from specimens obtained from the museum.

After its establishment in 1890, Yosemite National Park hasn’t always refrained from feeding its bears. The park operated artificial feeding areas between 1923 and 1971, in order to attract bears for visitors keen to see the local wildlife. Between Yosemite National Park Bans Human Food and 1956, a trout hatchery was introduced in the park offering bears a spot for easy bashing.

Study shows changes in food sources for bear’s diet. Between 1928 and 1938, the proportion of human food was at 29% and 35$ between 1975 and 1985, among the bears that ate non-natural foods.

Prevention Helped

The study backs the management approach of preventing access of human foods to bear. Campers use brown metal storage lockers while backcountry hikers use plastic storage containers.

Hopkins noted that by reducing the amount of food on the ground and ensuring visitors are in compliance with food storage requirements, it has led to the success of the management.

Earlier findings by Hopkins study realized that stopping bears from getting the taste of human food in the first place can help in breaking the chain of picnic-basket stealers. It was noted that once the bears are moved away from the people, they eventually resort to their favorite food sites, in reference to another study.

Bears that rely on human food deliver more cubs and become bigger in size when compared to those that subsist on natural food sources, although they have a shorter lifespan. This is from the fact that they were seen as a nuisance hence were easily attacked and killed by hunters, because they lived in near developed areas.

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