Two black bears have been killed and another two injured after being hit by cars in Yosemite National Park in the last three weeks alone, after park closures during coronavirus lockdowns led wildlife to freely roam the roads in recent months.
Rangers are begging visitors to California’s sprawling park to slow down after the four bears were struck by vehicles leaving at least two of the creatures dead.
The two other bears were seriously injured after vehicles speeding faster than the 25 mph limit plowed into them, according to the National Park Service’s Bear Team Blog.
The wounded wild animals were seen limping off into the woodland and their conditions are currently unknown.
‘We will never know the severity of their injuries,’ the blog read.
Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman told Mercury News bears and other animals were sighted more frequently on the roads when the park was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Yosemite was closed to the public for almost three months from March 20 to June 11, leaving the animals free to roam all areas and leading employees that live in the park to notice a change in their behaviors.
Human traffic continues to be drastically reduced, with the park now operating at a reduced 50 percent capacity and visitors required to make reservations online in order to limit crowds.
However, despite three months of closures and fewer visitors, five bears have already been hit by cars in 2020.
‘We are are seeing more bears now,’ said Gediman.
‘But this is a naturally active time for bears. The bears can probably sense there are less people. That could be a factor for why they are out more. But whether that’s contributing to them being hit on the roads we don’t know.’
Gediman told Mercury News it is not clear if the bears are still behaving differently because of the closure and phased reopening but urged drivers to comply with speed limits and drive carefully through the park.
‘Yosemite National Park is a big park,’ said Gediman.
‘People who come here sometimes are not familiar with the roads or the wildlife. You get bears, foxes, deer and other animals that cross the roads.
‘People need to pay more attention and be aware of their surroundings. The wildlife don’t know the boundaries of the roads. They are just trying to get from point A to point B.’
Around 20 bears are hit by cars in Yosemite each year, with accidents most often occurring on the roads coming in and out of Yosemite Valley and along the Tioga Road and Wawona Road.