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Yosemite National Park Black Bear Safety

Food Storage

Bears have a voracious appetite. They also are incredibly curious and have an amazing sense of smell. This combination sometimes leads them to look for our calorie-rich food. Sometimes bears that routinely get our food become aggressive, and sometimes have to be killed as a result. By storing your food properly, you can prevent a bear's needless death.

Please note that these food storage regulations have the force and effect of federal law: Failure to store your food properly may result in impoundment of your food or car and/or a fine of up to $5,000 and/or revocation of your camping permit.

What is food?

"Food" includes any item with a scent, regardless of packaging. This may include items that you do not consider food, such as canned goods, bottles, drinks, soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, trash, ice chests (even when empty), and unwashed items used for preparing or eating meals.

How to store your food in...

(also learn what to do if you see a bear)

In your car

You may store food in your car only during daylight hours. Do not store food in your car after dark: use a food locker. Remember to clear your car of food wrappers, crumbs in baby seats, and baby wipes. Even canned food and drinks must be removed from your car.

Food lockers are available at Curry Village and at nearly all trailhead parking areas. More information about food lockers...

In your campsite or Housekeeping Camp unit

You must store all your food in food lockers. Bears may enter campsites even in your presence, and some will even check bear boxes to see if they're latched. Keep your locker closed and latched at all times, just like you would a freezer. Only have the food out that you are actually using; if you're not using it, put it back into the food locker. Finally, treat your trash like food: keep it in your food locker or dispose of it in a bear-proof dumpster; do not leave it sitting out.

Each campsite contains one food locker, measuring 33"x45"x18" (read more about food lockers ).

Food may be stored out of sight in hard-sided trailers and RVs , as long as windows, doors, and vents are closed when you're not there. Food may not be stored in pop-up or tent trailers, or other soft-sided campers.

In your tent-cabin

You must store all your food (including toiletries) in food lockers (read more about food lockers ).

In your hotel room or cabin

You must keep all food inside your room; if you are not in the room, the windows and doors must be closed. Bears can easily break into cabins through an open door or open window. Bear eating food after breaking into tent cabin. Bear eyeing an ice chest on top of a car. Bears recognize food both by smell and by sight.

In picnic areas and on the trail

Do not leave your food unattended. Always keep your food within an arm's reach and don't turn your back to your food. Bears may investigate picnic areas or backpacks for food even in your presence, so be alert.

While backpacking in the wilderness

Bear resistant food containers (bear canisters) are required for overnight hikers in most of the Yosemite Wilderness and are strongly recommended everywhere else. Hanging food is only a delaying tactic for bears, as bears can easily climb trees. In Yosemite and the southern Sierra, bear canisters are the only effective and proven method of preventing bears from getting human food.

You must store all your food in bear canisters in the following places: Within seven linear miles of any trailhead Anywhere above 9,600 feet Within 1/2 mile of the shore of Benson Lake

Food lockers are available as an alternative only at Little Yosemite Valley and all five High Sierra Camp campgrounds. More information about food lockers More information about bear canisters (including rental information)

In those few areas within Yosemite where bear canisters are not required, it is strongly recommended that you store your food in a bear canister. Otherwise, you may hang your food using the counterbalance method, carefully following all the instructions. Be prepared to stay up at night to scare away bears attempting to get your food. Bears can get hung food, even if you hang it properly.

Don't forget to remove all food from your car before your backpacking trip!

What to do if you see a bear

You may not see a bear during your visit because bears naturally avoid people. If you do see a bear, what you should do depends on the situation. In any case, always let a ranger know or leave a message at 209/372-0322.

If you are in a developed area (e.g., campground, parking lot, lodging area), act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling or banging pots together (don't worry about waking people up if it's nighttime). If there is more than one person, stand together to present a more intimidating figure, but do not surround the bear.

The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.

If you see a bear anywhere else , keep your distance (at least 50 yards, or about the distance four parked shuttle buses would take up). If you get closer, you will be helping the bear become used to being around people.

Bears that become comfortable around people lose their natural fear of us and sometimes become too aggressive; sometimes they then have to be killed.

When a ranger sees a bear, the ranger may use non-lethal aversive tactics to chase bears out of developed areas. During your overnight stay, expect to see and hear rangers patrolling public areas for bears. You may hear rangers yelling at and chasing bears. You may also see or hear rangers using a shotgun to shoot noisemakers or rubber projectiles at bears. The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.


These regulations and precautions help decrease the chance of personal injury or property damage. However, bear damage and confrontations are still possible even when all of the above guidelines are followed. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in citation and/or impoundment of property.

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