Wildlife, Yosemite National Park
Twitchers (brid watchers who record their sightings) will love this place. Coming from another hemisphere most of the feathered types were all new to me.
I got lucky with the Stellar's Jay; after tracking it around a picnic spot for 10 minutes it actually landed on a table right next to me.
There are some beautiful specimens; I was particularly struck with the tanager I saw though unfortunately it was too far away to get a decent shot.
Even in the alpine regions, animals avoid humans, and so trying to spot deer and bear can sometimes be difficult. Deer feed in the meadows during spring, and appear unafraid of visitors, but don't try to get near them. Spotting a mountain sheep or lion are next to impossible as I've never heard of anyone who has. But, bears are periodically seen roaming around. Ground squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere in summer, as are the Stellar Blue Jays and Crows.
In the alpine regions, I've interacted with bears mostly at night, before the days of bear proof food containers. I once lost my entire food supply to a bear, and had to drive the mischievous group away with the noise of pots and pans.
Bees, mosquitos, butterflies, and other insects are commonly found during camping. Fish are seeded into the alpine lakes to provide anglers a more ready supply of fish to catch.
Yosemite animals while hard to find are still a source of entertainment for visitors. It's important not to scare them with pets. Please don't feed them, as the larger animals, especially bears, can become aggressive and very dangerous when accustomed to receiving food from humans.
We were lucky enough to see two lovely black bears enjoying the fresh grass of Crane Flats. We were driving along the Tioga Road and noticed two ranger cars, along with group of people, and so pulled over to see what was going on.
We then remembered that a ranger had mentioned that bears had been spotted here the previous day as part of a ranger stroll featuring bears.
We watched the bears for a while and they were getting quite close. Not a good thing really, either for the bears or us. The rangers asked everyone to keep a fair distance away as one of the bears decided to cross the road right in front of us.
The marmot is one of the classic mountain creatures and even if you never see one while hiking, you are bound to hear one. They make a shrill whistle presumably to warn other marmots of your approach. These large furry rodents are actually just super-sized ground squirrels, differing mostly by habitat. They frequent rocky areas at high elevation and hibernate during the cold winter months so must eat lots to put on the necessary weight for survival. Come to think of it, I've never seen a skinny marmot! We had some at White Wolf Campground and saw some pesky ones on top of Half Dome. I wonder if they need the cables. ;)
Yosemite might not be an animal park on a par with Yellowstone or Glacier but if your take the time to get away from the crowds you will see your share. We saw eight bears in two weeks, a beautiful deer with great antlers, a few marmots and lots of birds. Walking early morning or late afternoon increases your chances as this is when animals are most active and also when trails are less busy. You also need to keep your eyes open and not just for the animals but also for other people's reactions.
On top of Half Dome, we kept looking for the rare Lyell Salamander. It's certainly an odd place to find a salamander. We thought we spotted one but it turned out to be a fairly common lizard though he was certainly acting like he was endangered!
On the Panorama Trail we hadn't seen anything going down to Nevada Falls from Glacier Point but on our way back up, we saw a family looking off into the woods so we stopped and they told us there was a mama bear with two cubs. It was way off in the distance and I could only see them with my zoom lens on my camera but there they were, with one of the baby bears even climbing a tree!
During our two days in Yosemite, we saw a variety of wildlife. Both the campgrounds and trails are full of virtually tame mule deer, tree squirrels, and ravens. On the trails we noticed quite a few California ground squirrels, numerous Steller's Jays with their distinctive blue and black coloring, and a few western fence lizards which are also colored a beautiful blue and gray.
The main animals about which you will hear and be concerned in the park are the black bears. Though only 300-500 of these creatures live in the park, they are prone to visiting human areas to look for easy-to-find snacks in cars, tents, or left in the open. From what I read, bears can not only smell the food, but also have learned to recognize the look of coolers and ice chests, so leaving them in your car is also risky. At Curry Village, there is a sign showing a bear ripping the door off a car to get to the food inside...if you don't believe it, look closer. The sign has a real door that was torn from its hinges by a hungry bear!
Luckily, the park has thousands of bear-proof storage containers at the campgrounds and parking areas. These steel boxes are strong enough to foil the bears' power, and have a complex latch that the bears' large paws can't manage to open.
While in our short two day trip to Yosmemite we did see some true wildlife who seemed unafraid of people. The most amazing was the bear, my first sighting of a bear in the wild and it was VERY close.
We also got to see on our walks a comical chipmunk and a crusing grouse, both out for a day of food hunting.
While walking towards Yosemite Falls from the visitors center we actually did get to "encounter" Smokey The Bear. This wild bear (with an ear tag) ambled by us at a distance of about 50 meters....after he passed us he climbed a tree and I saw a small overgrown access path going toward him. I took this path until I was about 20 meters from his tree, from where I took several pictures. At this point several other photographic "enthusiasts" passed me by, jumped an intervening fence and proceeded to move UNDER the tree that this wild bear was in.....as soon as I saw what they were doing I began to move BACK, further away from the tree, needed more distance between me and a bear seeing a fast food bar comiing to his tree, just right for a midmorning snack.
Later in the visitor center Tal and I found a more "friendly" looking bear to take a photo with.
As in many National Parks, wildlife of all kinds are in abundance. I personally missed a great shot. Saw a herd of Mule Deer in the morning as I emerged from my cabin to go for breakfast in the morning. There had to be about 8 of them. As I ran back inside to get me camera, they all apparently ran away, for when I got outside, with camera in hand, they were gone. Lesson: Never go unprepared and always be prepared for the unexpected. What you may miss could be the shot of your trip. None the less, I got a picture of this bird, one of many to be found here. In addition to the deer and the birds, Black Bear roam the back country and there are numerous smaller animals as well.
The bird in the picture is a Brown-headed Cowbird, which is actually regarded as a Non-Native Species for the park. It is a Parasite which lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, similarly to the European Cuckoo.
In Massachusetts we get Blue Jays that come to our feeders and in California I was used to the California Jays. These are lovely birds, but it wasn't until we got to the mountains in the west that we saw the Stellar Jay. It's black hood, reminiscent of a starry midnight sky, makes it stand out from it's relatives. Jays have a very wide vocabulary, using many different sounds for different reasons. It's more than just that screech that we are familiar with.
If you spend any time walking through the valley, you should see plenty of wildlife. I have seen bear, raccoon, coyote, deer and many others in the few times that I have been here.
Please don't chase the wildlife though and don't throw food at them.
In April 2004, we were able to watch a coyote hunting in the meadows. He was hunting small rodents as far as we could tell. He did come across some deer, which let him know that they weren't going to put up with him and chased him away.
While leaving the Yosemite Village, we found many cars stopped in the middle of the road.
We saw no reason for it "Oh God! Traffic! Even here!"
The reason actually was this coyote, placidly walking at the side of the road, a few meters away from cars and people taking pictures, with absolutely no fear at all.
It only escaped when a stupid visitor horns in his car.
It is a great truth of life that the stupids' mother is always pregnant.
How taking a picture like this is actually difficult!
These lovely creatures run everywhere, even very close to humans. They probably know that nobody will ever hurt them here.
This squirrel was a couple of meters away from the entrance of the shop.
That place was crowded! Full of people entering the shop and exiting with tons of goods and nonsenses, but he was not afraid of us, only fleeing if closely approached
As soon as we entered the Yosemite National Park, my friends were happy as they were visiting a nice place.
They appear as they were thinking they were visiting a large, beautiful, but regular forest, as many others we have in Italy.
I remained silent, as many things were still to discover that day.
As soon as we entered the Yosemite Valley, we stumbled in this wonderful deer quietly wandering aside the road. They remained with no words, these enconters not happen often in Italy...
Yosemite National Park is home to a variety of animals. Bears, mountain lions, deer, birds, coyotes, and squirrels all call it home. Squirrels and deer are the most often seen wandering around the green meadows. We also passed a small fox on the road, as well as a coyote. The deer and squirrels are very comfortable with the large amount of tourists, and let you get extremely close. Remember, they are still wild animals and it is illegal to feed them. Follow all the park warnings when camping or dealing with the animals, for yours and the animals safety.