Bears in Yosemite

A few days into our Yosemite trip, a few of us were enjoying breakfast in the dining room of our rental house when I looked up to see a bear wandering by the window.

It took me a second to register what I was seeing before I said, “Hey, Alex, there’s a live bear outside.”

Alex looked up to confirm that there was indeed a live bear outside, a bear who was eagerly smelling odors wafting out from the screen window. We both quickly snapped a photo before Alex closed the window. I opened the blinds, which spooked the bear away.

Now, I know that humans should not interact with wild animals, as it can snowball into wild animals being way too comfortable with humans. When such animals are big and potentially dangerous, the result can be deadly (for the animal or the human).

However, the encounter stayed on my mind for hours afterwards, because the bear acted like a big, curious puppy. It almost looked bashful and apologetic for disturbing our breakfast. As a result, I not-so-secretly hoped that the bear would return–perhaps with a bit more distance between it and the house–so we could observe it instead of just taking a quick photo or two. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the bear again.

That is, until Friday.

On Friday, everyone else took off for a day of hiking, and I stayed at the house to work. I had my laptop and notes on the dining room table just in case the bear were to return, and sure enough, around 2:00 in the afternoon the bear ambled on by.

This time it was a bit bolder (this is why it’s important to scare away wild animals), and after smelling the air for a few seconds, it stood up on its hind legs and pressed its nose against the screen. Its belly was covered in sap–it must have gotten a good scratch-and-sniff on a tree before heading to the cabins. Behind the camera, I firmly told it to go away, and it obliged. There were other houses to check out.

Apparently those houses didn’t have open screens, though, because the bear wandered back. This time, it sidled by the window and then turned away, plopping down on the ground. It was, admittedly, really adorable.

My hope was that the bear would just sit there and we could have a moment together. But its belly got the best of it, and it reared up to the window again (which I should have closed after the first encounter). At this point, I got really loud, ensuring that the bear would run away and not come back (it ran behind the bush for few seconds in the hope that I would forget it, but I kept making noise until it loped off).

The whole experience was new and surreal, and it made me better respect the boundaries between humans and nature. We’re guests in places Yosemite, while it’s home for bears and other animals.

Have you had a close encounter like this with a bear?

4 thoughts on “Bears in Yosemite”

  1. Bears are a regular thing where bears live. We had them all the time in West Glacier, MT just walking across the front lawn or swimming in the lake. That’s why you keep your food and trash locked up tight so bears, raccoons, and other critters aren’t attracted to your tent, car, or camp. We never bothered them, kept a healthy respect for them, and didn’t go out if they were out (obvs).

    We had deer, elk, snakes, bats… all part of the mix.

  2. Fascinating, just came home today from two nights in Yosemite (Housekeeping Camp)

    The only rental homes I know of in Yosemite proper are Yosemite West or The Redwoods at Yosemite (Wawona), the latter is quite a drive to the valley.

    Didn’t see a bear in the park, though I did see one on Hardin Flat road just outside the NW entrance today.

    Three weeks ago, saw four bears just outside our hotel in Waterton (Alberta, Canada)


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