I’ve seen Grizzly Man. I know the risks of personifying wild animals. That said, I still do this after I see any animal anywhere, no matter how likely that animal is to enjoy me for a snack. Hippos, sharks, crocs, spiders — count 'em.
That’s why I’m both delighted and disturbed by Yosemite’s recent announcement that in an effort to protect the Park’s black bear population from errant drivers — a source of injury and/or death to over five percent of the park’s population last year alone — they have launched an initiative called Keep Bears Wild. KBW is a tracker that allows visitors to monitor the bears' whereabouts throughout the park’s 1,100+ square miles via GPS. The idea is that if visitors keep the beasts top of mind, they are less likely to do something unforgivable (like kill them with their cars).
There are a select few bears already fitted with the specialized GPS collars, which allow park rangers to monitor their location and behavior. Over the past few years, this data has yielded remarkable insights, from the actual mating season (popular science was off by a month) to the fact that they routinely travel upwards of 30 miles a day scouting food. Now the public can know what, exactly, black bears are doing in their free time. (Just kidding, it’s all free time! They’re bears.) The real-time updates to rangers will also help protect humans (and their food) from bear encounters.
Thankfully, they’ve built in a little failsafe to keep people like me from going full Rambo — flora strapped to our heads and a pouch of berries at our hip — to try and commune with the beasts. The data shared with the public via KBW is on an undisclosed delay — the point is to keep them wild, after all.