In the last three weeks, at least four bears were hit by speeding cars in Yosemite, at least two of which were killed. The two bears that survived were hit by drivers going faster than the 25 mph speed limit and were seriously injured and limping. We will never know the severity of their injuries.
It is important to remember that while traveling in the park, the posted speed limits are not only there to protect people, but to also protect wildlife in areas where animals cross roads. Following posted speed limits may save the life of a great gray owl as it flies across the road, or a Pacific fisher as it runs across the road, both of which are endangered species. This easy action—slowing down—may also prevent you from hitting a bear eating berries on the side of the road, or a deer crossing with its fawn. While traveling through Yosemite, try to remember that we are all visitors in the home of countless animals, and it is up to you to follow the rules that are put in place to protect them.
Have you ever noticed the signs by the side of the road that say, “Speeding Kills Bears” with the image of a red bear on them? These signs mark the locations of bears where they have been hit by a vehicle this year, or where bears have been frequently hit in previous years. We take these signs down each winter and put them up as the accidents occur, hopefully as a reminder to visitors to slow down and keep a lookout for wildlife.
If you do hit an animal while in Yosemite and need immediate ranger response, you can report it to the park’s emergency communication center at 209/379-1992, or by leaving a message on the Save-A-Bear Hotline at 209/372-0322 if you believe that the animal is uninjured. You may also use the Save-A-Bear Hotline number to report non-urgent bear observations.
Over 400 vehicle-bear collisions have occurred along roadways in Yosemite National Park since 1995. The “Red Bear Dead Bear” initiative, which began in 2007, aims to raise visitor awareness of the high frequency of vehicle-bear collisions, to encourage visitors to be aware of bears and wildlife along roadsides, and to remind visitors to slow down and obey posted speed limits. The attention-grabbing signs are placed throughout the park where collisions have occurred. Sadly dozens of black bears are struck by vehicles each year. Vehicle-bear collisions are now one of the leading causes of black bear mortality in Yosemite.