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Guardians of the Yosemite (1961) by John W. Bingaman

Chapter XI


Fish Planting is one of the big jobs a ranger had to do in summer. During my tenure as a park ranger I assisted in planting thousands of young trout and this required a special technique. It was done by loading the fry in pack cans, usually five gallon cans, then transporting the cans by truck and pack mules to the lakes and streams in the remote areas of the Park. This moving of the fry had to be done with great care to insure that the temperature of the water in the cans was held within a few degrees to the water temperature of the hatchery where they were spawned. Many times we carried cakes of ice to maintain the same temperature of the hatchery water. Frequent stops had to be made at streams in order to change water. Later mechanical devices were installed on our trucks to give the fish the proper amount of oxygen. Packing the fry containers on mule back required keeping the containers in motion until the lake or stream was reached.

In the past few years fish planting has been completely changed. Now it is done by airplanes. This has been most successful, also quicker and less expensive.

Fish planting by pack animals was hard exacting work and many trips had to be made off the main roads and trails which required a long day of travel.

Back in 1930 I decided to plant fry in an unnamed lake in my district. I scouted the area for several days before I found a way to take pack animals into the lake. Then I arranged to bring in two pack loads of Rainbow Trout. The lake was situated high on Kuna Crest and had never been planted before. Through careful planning I got the little trout in the lake without mishap. Three years later the lake produced some of the finest fishing in the area. By this plant I established the right to call the lake, Bingaman Lake and that’s how it is listed on our maps.

The first report of planting fish in Yosemite was in 1878 by a man named Kibbie. He was a homesteader living at Lake Eleanor and he planted some rainbow trout in Eleanor, Laurel and Vernon Lakes. The first official plant of rainbow trout made in Yosemite by Fish and ,Game Commission was in 1892. The Washburn Brothers had erected a fish hatchery at Wawona in 1895. This was operated by the State Fish Commission and millions of fry have been distributed in the lakes and streams since that date. Ed Gordon a packer working for Washburn Brothers at Wawona, participated in making many plants of fry in the Park. The U. S. Troops also assisted during the time they were on duty in the Park.

In 1919, The State Fish and Game Commission operated a temporary hatchery in Yosemite Valley under an agreement with the Park Service and by 1926 a permanent hatchery with 52 troughs was built. This operated up to 1957 when it was closed and part of the equipment was moved to Moccasin on the Tuolumne River.

An egg taking station was also established at Frog Creek near Lake Eleanor and this was operated for many years. Here eggs were taken from live fish and were hatched in the Yosemite Hatchery. This supplied millions of young fry to be planted in the Yosemite lakes and streams.

The Rainbow is the native trout in these waters. Brown Trout, Eastern Brook, and a few Golden Trout were the principle species brought in and planted in later years.

In the early years trout fishing in the waters of Yosemite was excellent, but with the coming of the increase in visitor fishermen each year it is impossible to keep the fishing constantly good. Sometimes it is said that there are often more fishermen than fish.

The Yosemite National Park is a sanctuary for all wild life. Deer and bear are plentiful. It is estimated that there are 8,000 deer in the Park. These migrate to and from the foot hills adjacent to the Park for reasons of feed and existence during the heavy Park snow pack in winter.

Common black bear protected by the Park have held their own through the years. Approximately 400 bear have been given as a census figure. There are a few mountain lions and many smaller animals, such as, coyotes, bob cats, fox, martin, badger, skunk, grey squirrel, douglas squirrel, belding ground squirrel, common California ground squirrel, several species of chipmunks and many others. Park laws protect all these animals. Any one killing or molesting the wild life is subject to arrest and prosecution by the U. S. Commissioner of the Park.

Bears are the worst source of trouble for the ranger. Three times our Station in Tuolumne Meadows was broken into by a hungry bear. This was usually in the fall before hibernation time. Sometimes these forays were made after the hibernation time. A hungry bear will use all his power to enter a building if he smells food. In our case the bear tore the shutter and window frame out and then entered through the window. He found food from the snow survey cache left there in the fall by the rangers. What a bear does not eat he destroys. He’ll puncture holes in cans and rip bedding and mattresses to threads. Why they will do this I do not know. Every precaution is used to guard against such vicious break ins. Sometimes a metal trap on wheels with a trap door is baited and set near the cabin. This method has been quite successful and the rangers have been able to trap and haul a number of these bad actors out of the area. In some cases the vicious ones are destroyed as they are a hazard to life and property.

In 1924 serious drought conditions existed over the State. It was one of the driest years on record. Due to the drought an epidemic of hoof and mouth disease hit the Yosemite deer herd. It also hit the cattle along the westside of the Park and into the foothill country. State and federal agencies cooperated to bring the epidemic under control. Hunting camps were established along the west boundary and included Big Meadow, Merced Grove, Ackerson Meadow, Tiltill Valley and Jaw Bone.

Ranger Adair and Rusty on patrol
Ranger Adair and Rusty on patrol

Nearly twenty thousand deer were killed along the west side of the Park in order to stop the spread.

In the winter of 1924, Ranger Adair and I were assigned to the inspection and investigation of the camps in the Park and to keep reports of the progress. We made routine patrols and regular visits to the camps that winter and spring. I still question if there were any diseased deer in the Yosemite herd. However, it was argued that the method of control was needed to stop the spread elsewhere so the organized program of control was carried through.

Boundary patrols to protect the deer from poachers is part of a ranger’s duty. I have covered many miles on horseback on the lookout for poachers. All during the fall hunting season on the outside of the Park there would be hundreds of hunters close to the boundary line. It was a temptation for a few to slip over now and then, and more than once a poacher has been caught by a ranger.

In my thirty-five years of experience I have observed only one Mountain Lion and one Wolverine. These are rarely seen in their natural habitat.

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management