About 300-500 black bears live in Yosemite’s 750,000 acres. (Grizzly bears no longer live in California.) A black bear’s diet consists mainly of berries, grasses, nuts, and insects. Black bears are naturally shy of humans but when they learn to associate food with people or development, that behavior can quickly change. This is why it is so important to follow food storage regulations while in the park. The best thing you can do to protect any park wildlife (and yourself) is to keep your distance, and never feed them!
Encountering A Bear
If you happen to see a bear in a wild place, watch it quietly and give it plenty of space—always keep at least 50 yards between you and the bear. If you are in a developed area, or if a bear approaches you, act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling very loudly. If you are with other people, stand together to be more intimidating to the bear. Never surround or corner a bear.
If a bear feels uncomfortable with how close a person is, a black bear may bluff charge, which is when a bear approaches a person quickly, then stops. This is sometimes accompanied by the bear pawing the ground and making vocalizations. The important thing to do in this situation is to stay where you are and look as big as possible—raising your arms in the air—and even holding your backpack over your head, and yelling loudly. As soon as the bear backs away, you should too.
Attacks are rare—nobody has been killed or seriously injured by a bear in Yosemite. If a black bear approaches, always follow the above guidelines. If a black bear attacks while you’re in Yosemite, fight back.
Keeping Bears Away
Black bears have one of the best senses of smell of all wild animals, a keen sense of curiosity, and a huge appetite, eating between 4,000 and 20,000 calories per day depending on the time of year. If they smell something that might be edible—even if it’s a tube of toothpaste or a stick of gum—they will likely want to investigate. That’s why it’s critical to keep ANYTHING that is scented, has calories, or has flavor stored properly: this includes all food, drinks, coolers, toiletries, and trash. Keep these items secured in your hotel room with your windows and doors closed securely when you are away or use the metal food storage lockers you’ll find throughout the park. Even a single, empty chapstick container or candy bar wrapper can result in a bear breaking into your car.