Bear Sightings in Yosemite Have 'Quadrupled' Since Park Closed to Tourists Due to Coronavirus

"It's going to take a little bit of a learning curve," said a park ranger on reopening the park after the animals get used to no humans

Yosemite Falls seen without people due to the park closure on April 11, 2020
Photo: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty

The bears of Yosemite are living their best life!

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to the closure of the Yosemite National Park last month, and with the humans away, the wildlife who call the stunning scenery home has taken back the land, roaming territory they usually would avoid because of tourists.

Over recent weeks, Yosemite — which is nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains — has shared glimpses at the animals, specifically the black bears, who have become less shy since the park’s closure.

In one social media clip, a bear can be seen climbing high in a tree, as other footage shows one openly ambling in a field.

“Yosemite National Park is home to about 300-500 black bears,” the park wrote on Instagram. “Though there hasn’t been an increase in their population since the park closure, bears have been seen more frequently than usual, likely due to the absence of visitors in Yosemite Valley.”

“There can be literally walls of cars, stop-and-go traffic or people in the park,” said bear biologist Ranger Katie on a Facebook livestream on Sunday, CBS News reported. “… Now that there are no people, the bears are literally just walking down the road to get to where they need to go, which is kind of cool to see.”

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One Yosemite employee told the Los Angeles Times that bear spotting has “quadrupled,” and other animals like bobcats and coyotes have popped up more recently too.

“It’s not like they aren’t usually here,” said the staffer, “it’s that they usually hang back at the edges or move in the shadows.”

According to the outlet, Yosemite has closed due to government shutdowns as recently as last year, but the current closure is shaping up to be the longest.

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As the animals become more accustomed to a lack of human visitors, Ranger Katie added in her Facebook livestream that it could take some getting used to when the park reopens in full force.

“It’s going to take a little bit of a learning curve,” she said.

According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been 24,334 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 725 deaths in California, as of April 14.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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