Yosemite National Park officials educate visitors on storing food safely… (Kari Cobb / NPS Photo )
Everyone loves to watch black bears at Yosemite National Park and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada, just not at close range. That's why the park sponsors an apple-picking day each year to remove tempting fruit from populated areas of the park so bears and humans don't collide.
Yosemite has two historic apple orchards inside the park, one at Curry Village and one near the horse stables. The idea is to remove the non-native food source in hopes of keeping the bears wild and away from the popular tourist stops.
Visitors and volunteers are invited to learn more about the bears from rangers and wildlife biologists and participate in the 15th Apple-Picking Event that's set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday. (Note: Visitors may keep apples that are knocked down but aren't yet ripe. Spokeswoman Kari Cobb says they're "quite bitter" but good for baking.)
The national park reports that incidents between bears and people are down 38% compared with the same time last year and down 90% since 1998. This year's incidents have caused $22,827 in damage as of late July, according to the park's website.
What has caused the numbers to plummet? For decades, Yosemite and other California parklands have been retraining visitors about not leaving food out in their campsites or coolers visible inside their vehicles after dark. Food lockers at developed campsites and bear canisters required in the back country have helped the effort. The park credits proper food storage by visitors with reducing the number of bears who seek out and scarf down human food.
Check out Yosemite's Bears and Food Storage Web page for more details on safe camping in Yosemite.