The North American Black Bear In Yosemite

I can't wait to tell you about the north American black bear in Yosemite. Yosemite National Park is home to about 500 bears. I believe that these are the animals that most visitors are afraid to encounter, yet secretly hope they do :) Some years, they are out in abundance and other years, not so much. But whether you see one or not, rest assured...they are here.

Don't let their name fool you. Very few of them are actually black. Most of them are brown, cinnamon or a blond color. The average size of one of these animals in Yosemite Natl Park are three to four feet tall when they are standing on all four of their feet.

Rangers tell me that bears in Yosemite are about five feet long and weigh in at 200 to 300 pounds. However, some of our fuzzy California National Parks friends have weighed in at just over 650 pounds!

The largest bear ever measured in Yosemite weighed 690 pounds!

The north American black bear will mate in June and July. They have a seven month gestation period. They hibernate in the winter months and give birth to their off springs in January and February. They have one to three babies at a time and the cubs stay with their mother for more than a year after birth. In the winter months they hibernate in the boulder caves throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Naturally, the north American black bear in Yosemite eats from the grassy meadows, seeds, berries, acorns and insects. But let me tell you, they will eat anything. They often feed on the chipmunks, squirrels, marmots, gophers and the abundant field mice. But once they taste human food...look out...they want more.

If I look at it from their point of view, rummaging through the trash cans, campsites and breaking into cars is much easier than running after a gopher! I can see how they get spoiled and love to sit in one place to eat and not have to work so hard to get food. I have been told that they are most active from dawn to dusk. Yet, I have seen just as many out during the day as I have at night when I am here :)

Black Bear Photos & How This Bear Is Different From A Grizzly Bear


My tips for NOT encountering one of these guys. First of all, keep all your food, beverages, soaps, lotions, toothpaste...everything that is scented, in a bear proof canister. These canisters are located all throughout the park. Bring your own padlock for the canister/locker. There are two sizes of lockers. There is a locker size and then a large canister that holds more than two ice chests.

My brother and two of his boys watch this bear in Yosemite. Not too close, but close enough :)

Let me assure you of one thing: the animals are very much after your food...not you. If you encounter one of our fuzzy friends, scream and holler! Wave your hands...most of the time, I see them just run away when this is done. Please don't throw rocks or sticks at them. If you make them mad, they will just turn on you.

I think we should all do our part to protect them. If a bear in Yosemite gets caught breaking into a car, a campsite or hurts someone, the park rangers will put a tag in their ear. Once they are tagged, they are relocated out of the valley and to higher ground. They seem to find their way back to Yosemite valley in about a week. When they get three tags, they are killed.

Yosemite Bear With 1 Tag In Ear

The Yosemite bears are very interested our food. They walk through campsites regularly. Please avoid a cub bear. Where there is a cub, be very assured the mother is close by. She is extremely protective over her babies There are signs all over the park about putting your food in lockers or canisters.



I learned years ago that a bears nose is keener than his eyesight. Do not leave anything scented in your car. Cars are extremely easy for our a North American black bear to break into. If a bear in Yosemite damages your car or campsite, guess what...you will be heavily fined by the park rangers for being negligent.

I think most people are shocked to find that improper food storage in the park is a federal crime. The bears here have been known to break into a car just to get a candy bar wrapper!


If you're backpacking get your bear canisters here



North American black bears naturally live here in Yosemite. When driving here, SLOW DOWN. I was shocked to learn that 15-20 bears a year are killed in Yosemite when they run across the road and cars hit them. Whenever you see one of these yellow and red bear signs along the road, that is a sign that marks the place where a bear was killed going across the road. In 2009 there were 20 bears killed by cars in Yosemite National Park. I find it sad, but even more were killed in Tuolumne Meadows by cars.




My Interesting North American Black Bear In Yosemite Fact:

The black bears in Yosemite National Park use to destroy wooden trail signs. The rangers tested different colors of paints for the signs and different kinds of woods for the trail signs. The 250 pound, four legged, furry animals clawed them all! So now all of the trail signs are made of steel. My kids and I always look for the steel trail signs when we're hiking.

Here is another fact: Bears in Yosemite do not sleep all day. They are active in the day and at night. They play and eat their natural foods during the day. Then they break into the cars, cabin and campsites during the night. Beware...that bump in the night just may very well be a our American black bear breaking into your stuff! Bears are the biggest animals of the Yosemite wildlife.

Here is another fact: A lot of the Yosemite bears have figured out how to get garbage out of the "bear-proof" dumpsters. They do this by using their paws to open the hinged door. They then lay down on the hinged door and crawl inside the dumpster. This causes it to close. They then keep one leg outside and they hang upside down inside of the dumpster, grab the garbage and pull themselves back out.

My Last North American Black Bear Fact: When the Miwok Indians lived in Yosemite, their word for a bear was, Uzumati and they pronounced it Yosemite.

Have A Great Story About A Bear Or Other Animal?

Do you have a great story about a bear or other animal in Yosemite? Share it! Maybe you were out hiking and a bear came into your campsite. Or maybe you left food in your car and a bear broke into your car! Perhaps you enjoyed watching a bear frolic in a meadow as you took pictures from a safe distance away. Tell us your bear story. It doesn't even have to be about a bear in Yosemite! A mischievious raccoon or determined squirrel may have made your day...tell us about it!

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Read Other Visitors Bear/Animal Stories!

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Bad Bear At Camp Four 
We were at Camp Four August 2007 having a great time with 3 people we just met. They were visiting Yosemite for the first time ever from Napa Valley. …

A Lizard In Yosemite National Park 
We saw many lizards running underneith rocks in Yosemite. This one stayed long enough for me to get a picture. Our son tried really hard to catch one, …

Bears Don't Always Hibernate! 
We didn't expect to see a bear, we thought they were all hibernating for the winter. We saw this bear and took the picture from our car window. He was …

A Bobcat at At Lower Yosemite Falls! 
We had just walked up to Lower Yosemite Falls. After climbing on rocks, we spotted this beautiful bobcat at the base of the trees. We watched him for quite …

Two Bears Wrestle In Yosemite Not rated yet
Here are two bears that wrestle on a road in Yosemite National Park. See Kathy's Reply: This is a great video of bears enjoying their …

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