Don't Feed the Bears!

by Kris Corey
Yosemite Audio Adventures
(Groveland, CA)

Protecting human food from hungry bears has become a major priority in Yosemite National Park.

An unprecedented public education and enforcement effort has been extremely effective in reducing the number of negative bear encounters over the past decade and the installation of bear proof containers throughout the park has drastically reduced bear related property damage.

If you plan on visiting Yosemite, familiarize yourself with the rules regarding the bears and then please, follow those rules.

It stands to reason that the smells associated with popular camping areas are almost sure to attract hungry animals.

Unfortunately, bears that become conditioned to stealing people food are always a problem and may eventually pay the ultimate price for this behavior.

Once a bear has been successful in obtaining food in an area, it will return.

It is up to you to protect your food and the bears life by correctly utilizing either bear boxes or bear canisters.

Hanging food is not permitted nor effective against the "world's smartest bears.”

A few years back I learned quickly just how easy it is to get caught off guard while camped at Glen Aulin backpackers campground.

I was on my way to McCabe Lakes for a five day trip
and had spent a peaceful night listening to the thundering
falls and enjoying spectacular weather and scenery.

The morning was crisp, with blue skies as the sun slowly warmed the valley.

I began breaking down my campsite and opened my bear
cannister for something to munch on as I busied myself with
camping chores.

I placed the open canister under a small lodgepole pine near the edge of my campsite and forgot about it for maybe 2 ½ minutes.

I was kneeling on the ground carefully folding my tent
so it would fit back into its tiny stuff sack when I heard a

It wasn't far away, but I ignored it.

Then it came again, louder this time. "BEAR!" I looked up from my ground level project and saw a group of fellow campers looking at me, or rather, looking past me.

My adrenaline soared as I instantly remembered the open bear

I turned on my knees and quickly boosted myself to a standing position.

Less than eight feet away was a medium sized black bear who
was only a split second from grabbing my canister.

The bears nose was less than 2 feet away from the container
and only the small 4 inch diameter tree separated the
bear from my five days worth of food.

It never ceases to amaze me how something so big
can move so quietly.

The bear was brown and shaggy looking, less than 200 lbs. Not quite the size of an old console television, but close.

Apparently, my abrupt upward motion had stopped her just in time.

We stared at each other for a split second. I waved my arms
and shouted at her but she stood her ground looking back and forth between me and the food canister.

My fellow campers who had alerted me to the situation, were creating quite a ruckus banging on their pots and yelling from afar, but this bear was not easily intimidated.

Suddenly, the bear moved to the left of the
tree but before she could reach around the tree to the
container, I too, moved in the same direction.

The bear then moved to the right of the tree and I reacted
again by moving the same way. It was as though the
bear was trying to out-wit or out maneuver me. Almost
like a child playing peak-a-boo.

I noted that she had multiple escape routes so I
advanced just a few inches with each sidestep as we
continued our dance side to side of the tree.

My hope was to crowd her a little and it worked! After a few long seconds she finally conceded and stepped backwards.

She then turned and retreated down the hillside where
she met up with 2 cubs and they disappeared into the

I was lucky and I learned an important lesson. I
re-lock my bear canister religiously every time I open

The most important rule with bears is;


A bear will defend food in its possession.

On this occasion, I was fortunate, everything
worked out. She didn't get my food and the cubs got no
reward from their campground scrounging adventure.

I would have felt terrible if my actions, my stupidity,
had contributed to these animals' demise.

If you follow the rules and remain alert the
Yosemite bears are not something to fear.

I never felt threatened by this animal, she didn't want to eat me, just my food!

I was embarrassed though, I know better. Being alert to your surroundings and keeping your mind in the present is a basic rule of solo backpacking.

Glen Aulin is only one of many great back country
destinations awaiting exploration but it is up to each
of us to take responsibility for our actions in the
wilderness and protect what remains.

If you are lucky enough to see one of these magnificent creatures consider yourself blessed.

You will always remember the adventure.

Take the time. Take a hike.

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What a Valuable Lesson Reminder!
by: Suzi

Greetings Kris,

And thank you for sharing your story with us! It's not only a wonderful reminder of what we should be thinking of, and how we should be conducting ourselves while in the wilderness, but it also reminds us why we should follow the rules.

The rules were created to protect both us and the wildlife we most likely will encounter! Your story could have turned out so differently on so many levels!

Thanks for sharing!


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