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Deer in Yosemite

The Moon is Waxing Crescent (25% of Full)


Re: Bear: Blue 72

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Bear: Blue 72
May 03, 2013 08:48PM
I haven't heard back from Park Ranger Jeffrey Trust ...yet? It feels wrong to keep this knowledge to myself, and I have grief to shed, besides. Does anyone here know how often park bears are legally shot by sport killers just outside Yosemite's protective border? That may be too tough to answer. How about collared bears such as Blue 72? I learned just a few nights ago that he was shot to death near the Big Oak Flat entrance station last autumn. He would have been four years old this winter and I looked forward to the simple chance of watching him grow up. His sign was no where to be found when we sojourned out that way fall of 2012, and again this April, now I know why. How naive of me to not consider that habituated park bears might be targeted near the border. Here I was worried he would be struck by a vehicle, or become food-conditioned by the negligent or ignorant. The news surprised me. It shouldn't have as I am well acquainted with this behavior around Yellowstone, Denali, and more recently Joshua Tree National Park. We'd only seen Blue 72 east of Devil's Elbow in the valley-maw. Perhaps hyperphagia drew him out. He mostly kept away from problem humans, until he unknowingly didn't...

We called him Padooa. Here he is at two years old before being tagged and collared (image cropped. 100-400mm telephoto lens)
He's getting a better view of the dirt trail a couple of rule-breaking bicyclists came zooming through on, who surprised him whilst grazing.

My heart is broken.

"Bears are made of the same dust as we and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. His life not long, not short, knows no beginning, no ending, to him life unstinted, unplanned is above the accident of time, and his years, markless, boundless, equal eternity." John Muir, 1898
avatar Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 08, 2013 12:58PM
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 09, 2013 12:08AM
Also leaving us was the magical Yellow-Yellow. The only bear known to have defeated the Bear Vault (all versions) and Bear Keg.


Bear-human interactions almost always end badly for the bear.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 11, 2013 10:23PM
So Yellow Yellow was snuffed out the same way, around the same time... pathetic. Thanks for letting us know, Ken M. She was only ten years younger than myself; quite an achievement.

I've still not heard back from Jeffrey Trust. I'd really like to know how many traceable park bears have been lost this way over the years.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 10, 2013 10:21AM
I think hunting is disgusting. Poor defenseless (against a rifle) wild animal just trying to live his life in harmony with nature.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 10, 2013 11:53AM
Two questions:
What does a hunter do with his newly murdered bear? A freezer full of bear sausage or a fur coat?
Assuming the hunter murders the bear in the wilderness, how does he get it back to his car? The images in my head of trying to get the murdered bear to the car are going crazy.
avatar Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 11, 2013 04:39PM
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 12:01AM
Black bears are often reduced to decorations by their killers, whether as rugs or taxidermy mounts. Some parts even see their way into the black market. The illegal wildlife trade is rampant in California. Self-portraits are also taken with the freshly dead, thought of as a trophy, and often positioned closer to a camera lens to appear larger. These are disturbingly called hero shots. If you type in "hunter hero shot" into a search engine, you will see for yourself. People will eat bear, yes. Homo sapiens has been known to eat just about anything, including eachother. In fact, in California it is illegal to waste edible meat from a bear (CCR Title 14 Section 4304).

A dead ursine may be skinned and butchered on the spot to make it easier to pack out, and to help keep the meat from spoiling. I was really trying not to think about the resultant digestion of Padooa following such bloodlust. It makes me feel further angry that he has been used to sustain his killer. A desire was fulfilled, not a need. Bound by law. Would I rather his meat be wasted? Of course not. I'd rather someone hadn't gone out of their way to kill a bear. I'd rather there was at least some sort of buffer in place to protect park wildlife, for the boundary is obviously too small to afford meaningful protection to even bears who keep territory in the heart of the valley.

All his life Blue 72 had camera lenses pointed at him. I found this video. It offers a clearer idea of how unsporting his death must have been: http://youtu.be/HnzQ2O8uU1c
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 11:28AM
It is hard not to become emotional over this stuff. I personally find bears magical.

However, there IS another side to this. Bears, like most animals, exist in a complex ecosystem, and they require predation of some sort to keep their numbers in check, so as to maintain a healthy population.

Unfortunately, the bear population is exploding, having doubled in Ca in the last 20 years or so. The major natural predator of the California Black Bear, was the Grizzly Bear, no longer found here.

Currently, almost all black bears die as the result of human interaction. But they are multiplying.

As such, there is a very good case to be made to simply exterminate problem bears, as has happened in Yos. Extending hunting protections would probably be a bad thing, inasmuch as it would increase population pressures, and result in a less healthy general population.

It is easy in complex systems to create unintended consequences. For example, the protections for mountain lions has led to the near-extinction of the Big Horn Sheep, that the increased lion population targets ever higher.

Superb information available at the North American Bear Center at: www.bear.org
avatar Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 11:42AM
The Myths and Misconceptions is particularly interesting:


Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 13, 2013 07:55PM
Jeffrey Trust replied back. He says the NPS doesn't keep data on hunted Yosemite bears in "easily retrievable form", but that they average 1-2 reports annually (!). I suppose one would have to make a FOIA request to obtain that information? He further states, "it's not uncommon for bears to head out beyond Big Oak Flat up to Hetch Hetchy or even along Highway 108." It seems that the park offers only limited protection for wide-ranging species such as black bears. It may even be threatening to their well being, given that it is difficult for bears not to become habituated under current conditions in the valley, especially. Easy pickings for those who choose to skirt the boundary to shoot down bears wearing unmistakeable colored ear tags and collars.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 14, 2013 03:18PM
Ken M
Bears, like most animals, exist in a complex ecosystem, and they require predation of some sort to keep their numbers in check, so as to maintain a healthy population.

This is true for ungulates with a much different social makeup. Overabundance of prey species can certainly damage habitat and limit biodiversity. Still, I prefer pointy teeth be allowed to do the bulk of that job where possible, as predatory species don't tend to weed out the larger and healthier individuals from a population as human predators do. I've not seen evidence that California black bears are negatively impacting their environment? Modern "wildlife management" needs an overhaul, it's too focused on numbers, little on social dynamics.

Gray wolves, for instance, are a self-regulating apex predator (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/publications/11pubs/breck113.pdf). Rarely a competitor may manage to kill a wolf, whether an individual is ambushed by a puma, or an inexperienced pup-of-the-year is rushed down by a grizzly claiming a moose kill as his own. Rarely.

When human-caused mortality is mostly taken out of the equation we find that intraspecific mortality takes the lead. Wolves are a highly territorial, family oriented species. They breed once a year in the winter, and generally the alphas (mom and pop) are the only ones to do so. It's enforced. The family-unit or pack fiercely defends its territory (refrigerator\nursery) from other wolves; the size of which is inversely proportional to prey abundance. Even before human thrill killers began taking a toll on the Yellowstone National Park population, the average wolf lifespan was 4 years old. Often enough, territorial breaches lead to grave injury or death. This occurs even when wolf densities are low and prey densities are high. However, declining access to food is a primary reason for increases in intraspecific strife. Gray wolves are not particularly efficient predators as is... only 1 out of 10 hunts are successful. They must claim a wide area to be able to track down enough young, old, or otherwise infirm ungulates to feed their families and survive.

“Wolves are not perfect predators. They lack physical characteristics to kill prey swiftly, so they rely on athletic ability and endurance, which diminishes with age. They’re like 100-meter sprinters. They need to be in top condition to perform.” - Dan MacNulty, a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Biological Sciences’ Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

Ungulates fight back as all life that means to continue living does. From bison to even deer, these are all powerful animals. Examination of numerous wolf remains have revealed many a traumatic injury from hoofed blows. From cracked ribs to skull fractures. In a 1984 study, Phillips found a frequency of 22% cranial injuries from such kicks. When wolves survive these and are in the process of healing, they are completely dependent on family.

Meanwhile, ungulates are also doing their best to avoid wolves. They are even in tune to wolf territories and will spend time in buffers between them for added protection. Desperation would be the needed motivator for wolves to cross into these zones.

The Yellowstone population post-reintroduction has never grown beyond 175 wolves. The population swiftly grew, decelerated and declined. This, due to disease such as mange (which was actually once introduced into the wilds of North America to specifically eradicate wolves), intraspecific mortality, and in response to a declining prey base ("At Yellowstone, elk numbers have declined on the northern range, but those declines have been driven predominantly by hunter harvest and severe weather events." - http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3548695 - http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3785031). Then federal protections were lifted outside of the park and the chance of studying another natural equilibrium being reached has been muddled, at the very least. There are few unmanaged wolf populations to observe. Isle Royale is another one, but here in the 55th year of that predator-prey study the wolves are about to blink out of existence, not their prey the moose. Isolation and inbreeding has taken its toll.

Black bears are not wolves. Although, they are also not deer. Their home ranges do broadly overlap between the sexes, sometimes amongst mature individuals of the same sex. In these cases, dominance hierarchies are maintained rather than territories. Black bears are solitary and practice avoidance outside of breeding season or a site offering an abundance of food. In regions of low habitat productivity territory is mutually exclusive amongst mature individuals of the same sex, with females tending to be the most territorial. However, in the fall, boundaries may dissolve as bears seek out a higher caloric intake. Similar to wolves and puma, subadults will disperse and experience higher rates of mortality during the dangerous process of finding and establishing one's own territory. Females may breed every other year and keep their cubs close for 1 1/2 years. How much might these and other intrinsic behaviors limit their density? We do know that habitat quality and quantity plays a large role. Black bears are listed by the CDFW as an indicator species for oak woodlands.

Ken M
Unfortunately, the bear population is exploding, having doubled in Ca in the last 20 years or so. The major natural predator of the California Black Bear, was the Grizzly Bear, no longer found here.

Up until 1948 there were no restrictions on when people could kill black bears, nor restrictions on the amount of black bears one could kill, nor even the method of killing them. They were historically viewed as unwanted pests by Euro-American settlers, a theme. It wasn't until 1957 that CDFW started issuing tags and attempting to determine how many of these bears were being killed. Still, in some years non-reporting was as high as 65%, and poaching in some regions was exceeding recruitment. A couple counties continued to allow year round killing until 1961. In 1972 they decided to prohibit the slaughter of mothers and cubs. How kind. ...So in 1982 they finally determined a population estimate of 10,000-15,000 black bears. What might their natural historic levels have been before this all but certain low point? It is no wonder that in the past 25 years we have seen an increase with or without the presence of grizzly bears, whose return I would welcome. An increase and another decline:

"In the new “2011 California Bear Take Report” issued Oct. 1 (2012) by the California Department of Fish and Game, the population of black bears was 5,000 fewer than the department estimated for 2010 and nearly 10,000 fewer since 2009—a combined reduction of approximately 25 percent of the population in just the past two years. ... The report estimates that California’s black bear population is now approximately 26,390 (plus or minus 6,889), down from an estimated 31,432 (plus or minus 7,991) last year and approximately 36,000 (confidence unknown) the previous year. " - http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2012/10/california-black-bear-population-decline-100212.html

Whilst their numbers have increased as range has expanded (including via transplant from Yosemite NP to the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains), what about black bear density? Here is the most recent data the CDFW offers for the region:

"The Sierra Nevada subpopulation encompasses the Sierra Floristic province (Jepson 1993) and extends from Plumas County south to Kern County. Black bears inhabit the entire region. Forty percent of the statewide black bear population inhabits the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bear Populations are less dense in the Sierra with between 0.5 and 1.0 bears per square mile (Grenfell and Brody 1983, Koch 1983, Sitton 1982). Over two-thirds of the bear habitat is administered by the U.S. Forest Service and two large National Parks are located within this region." - http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/population.html

Grizzly bears don't seem to be major predators of black bears, regardless:

"Both grizzly and black bears live in Yellowstone National Park. In this and other areas where grizzly bears and black bears are sympatric (share habitat), temporal isolation and behavioral differences tend to reduce direct competition between the two species." - http://www.greateryellowstonescience.org/files/pdf/ys5-gunther.pdf

In the lower 48 states, Glacier National Park is home to the largest population of grizzlies. It also has a rather healthy population of black bears:

"Preliminary results suggest that the density of GNP’s black bear population was equal to or greater than other interior populations sympatric with grizzlies, despite the high density of grizzlies. This project represents the first estimate of black bear density for this area, and demonstrates the efficiency of multi–species projects to inform management." - http://scholarworks.montana.edu/xmlui/handle/1/461

Ken M
Extending hunting protections would probably be a bad thing, inasmuch as it would increase population pressures, and result in a less healthy general population.

I don't think CDFW issues tags to "control" the population at all. Note this question and answer:

"Effects of hunting bears and bobcats without dogs
Governor Brown signed SB 1221 on Sept. 26, 2012 to repeal authorization for the use of dogs to pursue bears and bobcats. The DFG has received a large number of questions from the public regarding what effects it may cause. Below are some of those frequently asked Q&As:

What will be the effect on the bear population?
The DFG does not believe this law will negatively affect the State’s black bear population. Any increase or decrease in the overall bear population will likely be reflective of bear habitat, since habitat quantity and quality have more impact on the bear population than current hunting effort." - http://californiaoutdoorsqas.com/page/4/

And what of the ecological niche of grizzlies? Ursus arctos californicus is tragically gone, never to be again. What if their next closest kin are never allowed to return, either? Might black bears fulfill a similar enough niche to be better than a bear-shaped hole in the tapestry?

Ken M
It is easy in complex systems to create unintended consequences. For example, the protections for mountain lions has led to the near-extinction of the Big Horn Sheep, that the increased lion population targets ever higher.

What led to the near extinction of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep was unregulated commercial hunting and disease spread by domestic sheep.
- http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/sheep.htm

Only because of this, these dwindling herds are having trouble with *natural levels* of predation. Indiscriminate killing of puma elsewhere in the state, or even regionally, would not aid the bighorn.

Loss of Predators in Northern Hemisphere Affecting Ecosystem Health - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409133924.htm

Sadly and hypocritically, there is much anti-predator sentiment in the world. California only has two large predators left, and one of them eats mostly vegetation. May wolf recover soon.

If we go back far enough, we would find Naegele's giant jaguar, sabertooth cat, scimitar cat, American cheetah (possibly), Jaguar, California grizzly bear, giant short-faced bear, gray wolf, and dire wolf all living within the same period alongside puma and black bear. I'm certain the competition was fiercer then. It's interesting to consider that some living apex predator species actually co-evolved as mesopredators for most of their existence, and that some of their behaviors may be refined reflections of this era. They survived through all of that until a certain population of Homo sapiens came along.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2013 03:20PM by Kayucian.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 06:41PM
Hotrod, I agree with you wholeheartedly .I find all hunting despicable and those who engage in this activity to be deplorable. Someone could literally hand me a million dollars in cash and I could not take a rifle, aim it at a peaceful bear in the wild and murder it. The very thought of it makes me almost physically ill. And to anyone who hangs around national park boundaries to murder a buffalo, wolf or bear who innocently ventures outside the park limits, may they all roast in hell.

And think of how many beautiful animals are poached within National Park boundaries? I shudder to think.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 07:28PM
What also gets me are the hunters that are shooting Yellowstone wolves that are radio collared for study, when they go just outside of the park boundary. One was a alpha female and the other an alpha male which causes disruption in the pack and the possibility that pack will not survive. Years of scientific study is down the drain plus multiple beautiful animals are being killed. It is rumored that hunters are finding out the frequencies of the radio collars and are tracking the wolves that way and wait until they leave the park and then shoot them. I will never forget the first time I saw a wolf pack in Lamar Valley.
avatar Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 12, 2013 08:53PM
I will never forget the first time I saw a wolf pack in Lamar Valley.

Same here. But they were outnumbered by the pack of photographers at the time.
Re: Bear: Blue 72
May 13, 2013 08:07PM
Our first sighting was in 2002 when we saw the Druid pack in Lamar Valley. It was in the early evening and there was only us and 6 scientists at a overlook. They let us look through their spotting scopes for a closer view. When we got back home we bought a spotting scope of our own.
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