High-tech GPS upgrade arrives for Yosemite black bears


Via ars technica.

For the first time, black bears at Yosemite National Park are being outfitted with GPS devices that will provide rangers with the ability to track their movements in real time.

The National Park Service said Tuesday that the trackers will help protect bears and the public from encroaching danger. And during park programs, rangers will now discuss the bears’ movements with visitors. Previously, bears at the California-based national park were being tracked via radio telemetry, but that technology only provided readings in what the park service called the “developed” areas of the 1,190-square-mile park.

“This project will expand the park’s understanding of Yosemite’s black bear population and help to keep bears wild and visitors safe,” Yosemite superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement.

The announcement of the program comes as “bear incidents” (as the park service calls them) are up 44 percent compared to the same time last year. The National Park Service said incidents have steadily declined over the years, however, and they are down 90 percent since 1998.

In its latest public bear report for the month, the service said that “multiple bears were seen breaking into an unsecured trailer on multiple occasions” in the lodge area. The report also said that 24 bears “have been hit by vehicles” this year. Two bear cubs were killed just this month after being struck.

Regarding the new GPS devices, US taxpayers didn’t foot the $70,000 purchase price. The preservation group, Yosemite Conservancy, paid for the GPS collars, according to the park service.

Kari Cobb, a NPS spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview that only a fraction of the estimated 300-500 bears are getting collars. She said the conservancy purchased 15 collars.

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