Peek into the private life of a bear with Yosemite’s new bear-tracking feature

keep bears wild yosemite national park beartracker2
Keep Bears Wild

Ever wonder how bears spend their days once the wildlife cams turn off and the adventure magazine photographers leave?

Well, wonder no more. Yosemite National Park just launched a new website which allows wildlife enthusiasts the ability to track the ordinary movements of bears as they go about their day via a computer or smartphone. The website, called “Keep Bears Wild,” launched Monday and utilizes GPS collars that track certain bears as they roam throughout the rugged valleys and jagged peaks of the national park. According to YNP wildlife biologist Ryan Leahy, the project is anticipated to reveal fascinating aspects of the bear’s lives and give the general public a unique glimpse into their worlds.

“I think people are going to be blown away,” Leahy told the Associated Press.“It’s our responsibility to keep bears wild. It’s not hard to do. You just need to know how to do it.”

The technology works by using satellites to ping a bear’s steps throughout Yosemite, which is home to up to 500 large animals. These pings alert parks rangers of their whereabout to allow them to keep bears out of campgrounds and prevent them from entering other highly-trafficked tourist zones. The system employs an automatic delay before posting the location to the website so tourists don’t attempt to catch up with the bears to view them in person. The goal of the pilot project, which Leahy is leading, is to spread awareness about the bear’s presence in the park and to protect them — along with the tourists they sometimes encounter.

keep bears wild yosemite national park beartracker1
Keep Bears Wild
Keep Bears Wild

Leahy hopes that by giving the public greater access to the bears’ movements and fostering a deeper connection, it may encourage them to take extra precautions — such as storing food properly or slowing down when driving through bear zones. Vehicles are a major threat facing the black bears as last year alone, cars struck a total of 28 bears. Improperly stored food is another major issue which increases the incidence of human-bear interactions and puts both sides at risk.

Over the past three years, the park equipped roughly 20 black bears with GPS collars. So far, it’s shown the animals roaming more than 30 miles each day or two in their active season, sometimes scrambling up 5,000-foot canyons with ease. The average Yosemite bear weighs 150 to 250 pounds with a lifespan of around 18 years. Black bears typically hibernate from December through April though weather and other factors tend to change that. Some winters, for example, when food is highly available, they have been known to skip hibernation completely.

The website currently shows the locations of the bears with brown markers on a map and how far they move in a day. Visitors have the ability to check out the scope of their home ranges and view the locations of recent vehicle-bear collisions. In the future, YNP plans to add more features to the site using its collected data.