Hungry bears on pace to set damage record
                  at Yosemite

                  Associated Press, 05/21/98 00:57

                  YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - Black bears that caused
                  $500,000 in damage last year by ripping cars apart while scavenging for
                  food are headed for another record season of mayhem.

                  As deep snow drives the hungry looters into park campgrounds, the tab for
                  damage so far this year totals more than $120,000.

                  At a news conference Wednesday, Yosemite park officials displayed a
                  tranquilized bear captured this week and said the marauders are averaging
                  three to four break-ins per night, including three on Tuesday.

                  With the first big wave of campers expected this Memorial Day weekend,
                  park officials want to make sure tourists know how to avoid pillaging by the
                  dexterous and intelligent diners.

                  ``The situation is made particularly worse this year in Yosemite because
                  we've had a very long winter and heavy snowpack,'' said David M. Graber,
                  a National Park Service scientist. ``And the high country that would
                  otherwise begin to be available to the bears about now is simply covered
                  with snow and there is no food available.''

                  So these animals, averaging about 300 pounds, head downhill where they
                  can easily find unsuspecting tourists ignorant of their strength and guile. Park
                  officials say the bears simply place their claws on top of car doors and peel
                  them off.

                  ``It takes so little time for them to break into a car that they'll go until they hit
                  that jackpot,'' Yosemite wildlife biologist Steve Thompson said. ``They
                  recognize ice chests, grocery bags and food packages.''

                  Park officials have concluded that the only way to control human-bear
                  contact is to manage people, Thompson said.

                  Yosemite is launching an information campaign to educate visitors on how to
                  properly store foods during their stay. The park concessionaire also is taking
                  part with posters, flyers and shopping bags reminding visitors about proper
                  food storage.

                  In campsites, officials will continue providing metal food storage lockers,
                  which are the size of a small car trunk. They're planning to add more lockers
                  in Curry Village, one of the campgrounds in Yosemite Valley where bears
                  have been frequently sighted.

                  ``The consistent message we're getting out is, don't leave any food in your
                  car after dark,'' Thompson said. ``Use a locker, store it in a secure building
                  or even throw it away instead of storing it in your car.''


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