BOX: If you see a bear in Yosemite, call the park’s bear team at (209) 372-0322, file a wildlife observation summary report or send an email from the National Park Service web page at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearfacts.htm.

More snowmelt this spring and summer in the high Central Sierra means more of everything that relies on water, including insects and grasses, shrubs and berries, oaks and acorns, pines and pine cones, squirrels and marmots — and bears.

In Yosemite, black bears have been especially active in recent weeks, with multiple sightings in Yosemite Valley, at Crane Flat and other locations, according to park biologists. In addition, a mountain lion was recently reported on the popular Mist Trail, where hundreds of people troop up to see Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall every day.

According to bear team biologists in Yosemite National Park this week, bear incidents are up 100 percent so far this year compared with the same time last year.

There have been 16 bear incidents in Yosemite so far in 2017, 14 classified as wilderness incidents and two as residential. Park biologists say a bear incident is when a bear causes monetary loss to a person, if a bear causes property damage or obtains food. Bear incidents also include cases of bears causing injury to a person, which are infrequent.

Last year was a record-low year for bear incidents in Yosemite with 38 total, park biologists said in a July 4 update. That’s a 97.6 percent decrease since 1998, when 1,584 bear incidents were recorded.

“Bears continue to be active in wilderness areas in June,” bear team biologists said this week. “All reported bear incidents in the last few weeks have occurred along popular trails leading out of Yosemite Valley.”

Snow Creek

Two incidents were reported last month by backpackers when their bear canisters went missing in the night at the top of the Snow Creek switchbacks, east of Mirror Lake in Tenaya Canyon.

Biologists say bears can approach campsites at any time of day, so it’s important to always secure food and scented items in a bear-proof container.

Federal regulations require all backpackers in Yosemite to store all food in bear-resistant containers or the bear box food lockers now prevalent at most trailheads in the park. Hanging food, a popular way to try to keep edibles out of reach from bears for decades, is now illegal in Yosemite.

You must have your food stored unless it’s within arm’s reach of an awake person, park staff say. So don't go for a swim or take a nap with food left out. Food includes all food and drinks, trash, toiletries and other scented items.

Rangers advise that when camping in wilderness areas, people should place their bear canisters within viewing distance of tents and place objects like pots and pans on top that will make considerable noise if canisters are disturbed. Curious bears can roll canisters away from campsites in the night.

For now, some wilderness camping areas are closed near the Snow Creek footbridge.

‘Speeding Kills Bears’

So far this year, three bears have been struck by moving vehicles. In late June, a bear was hit in Yosemite Valley and another was hit near the Crane Flat gas station.

Last year, 28 bears were hit by vehicles in Yosemite, and six of those incidents resulted in bears being killed on impact. Bear fatalities included at least one adult female, which resulted in three orphan cubs. In 2015, 37 bears were struck by vehicles.

Most of Yosemite's black bears are not black but brown in color, according to bear team biologists. Black bears can vary in size. The largest black bear captured in Yosemite weighed 690 pounds. Typical male bears in Yosemite weigh around 250 pounds.

Black bears are excellent climbers and are known to climb trees and rock faces to find food, escape danger and to sleep.

Biologists estimate there are 300 to 500 black bears in Yosemite National Park and right now most of them are out and about seeking food.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

17653667