Bears housed in the Yosemite National Park in California have changed their diet to healthier food. Over the last 15 years, the campground implemented a safety measure that prevented the bears from scavenging food in the wild.
The park, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the U.S., serves as the home for around 400 black bears that are able to roam around. In 1998, the park’s records show the highest interaction between visitors and the bears, as the animals were able to raid the campgrounds in search for food.
Since 1999, the park has mandated a policy that provided bear-resistant food lockers at campgrounds to prevent the black bears from consuming human food, such as bread and potato chips.
Researchers studied bear hair samples from the campgrounds and compared them to the bear bones from museums and determined that the ratio of human food consumed by bears rose significantly after the park started providing food for the bears in 1923 in order to keep them away from the developed areas of the park.
After providing the bear-resistant food lockers, the number of human food the bears consumed dropped down to 13% – a value that is close to the numbers from 1915 up to 1919.
Preventing bears from eating human food is beneficial to them, as it prevents them from having rotten teeth, which is mainly caused by the high sugar level that pilfered chow contains. In addition, allowing bears to feed on human food keeps them coming back for more and in turn endangering both bears and humans.
With the new implementation of keeping human food away from the black bears, rangers at the Yosemite National Park are now only forced to kill about two bears per year as opposed to about seven or eight when the policy was not yet in place.
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