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Illilouette Basin Camping - Bears

Discussion about Yosemite black bears, protecting food, automobiles from bears, and preserving and managing Yosemite bears.

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Illilouette Basin Camping - Bears

Postby allheilyb1 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:57 am

Hi everyone,

I obtained my very first wilderness permit (entry Mono Meadows trailhead) and I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty pumped about it!

I only have one concern: BEARS. I will be my 1st backpacking experience and I wanna make sure my friends and I have the best experience. As I am the one planning the backpacking trip, I feel responsible for respecting all the safety tips so I'm digging into it as much as I can before heading out there! I would like to be able to make them feel safe at all time.

We will start our hike from the Mono Meadows trail parking lot and I am planning on camping in the Illilouette Basin, about a 5 mile hike (see link).

The few questions I have are:
1. We will be 3 people. I've read it is rare bears attack group of 2+ people. Anyone can confirm? That could be a good first stress relief.
2. Is Illilouette Basin an area with a high bear density?
3. Does the food have to be stored in the bear canister AT ALL TIME or only at night? Does the food need to be in the canister while hiking during the day?
4. Fires? Are bears attracted by fire, noise and marshmallows? I picture myself trying to have a small campfire and grill sausages when the sun sets. Is it safe or do we have to swallow cold sandwiches as fast as possible in order not to attract bears?
5. Finally, is it safe to start our 2nd day hike at dawn? Or should we wait until the sun is up?

Looking forward to hearing from you all! And my apologize if those questions sound stupid to experienced hikers and backpackers!
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Re: Illilouette Basin Camping - Bears

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:05 pm

In Yosemite bears have never attacked people. There are, in recorded history, NO deaths attributable to black bears in California. Injuries due to black bears in Yosemite are directly attributable to improper storage of food, which is the one thing bears will go after -- store food, trash, hygiene items, anything with a scent in a bear canister or bear locker as per Yosemite rules and you will have no problems whatsoever.

The food needs to be in the canister and secured at all times whenever it is not in your possession or within arm's reach.

You can hike, sit around the fire, do anything you like, as long as you follow food storage rules. If a bear approaches you at any time, stand together and wave arms, shout, throw things in the general direction of the bear (rocks or sticks, not food!), and it will leave. I've done it many times. There are occasions when a bear learns to bluff charge -- they don't actually intend to do anything but make you drop something they want. A bear elsewhere in the Sierra learned to do this to make people drop their packs and run. You don't drop anything -- stand your ground and the bear leaves. With black bears, even if they attack you are supposed to fight them off as hard as you can. You don't need to do that in Yosemite because they don't attack here. Aggressive bears in Yosemite are tracked and shot. This is why food storage rules are as they are -- the bears are only aggressive after they lose fear of people. When they become too used to people, the Rangers step in.

Bears have learned what an ice chest or a backpack looks like, and will break into cars or steal unattended packs to investigate them. Have a clean car, no trash or desiccated French fries under seats, no lotions, no cups, and cover boxes, bags or ice chests that are empty or continaining non food items with a blanket if they are in view of Windows. Store anything else in the bear lockers at the trailhead. Have someone wait with backpacks on pee breaks to drive away a bear. Keep empty packs in the tent or in the vestibule.

Don't be too paranoid. The bears here are more scavengers than predators. You don't have to hurry up and eat -- you'll smell like food long after you eat it. The bears know better than to come after you, regardless.
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