Rangers in Yosemite National Park have joked that the animals are "having a party" as they explore the landscape in bolder ways without interference from humans.
As we enter our sixth (fourth? 10th? 22nd?) week of lockdown and are cooped up inside it's comforting to know that at least our animal friends are having a good time outside. Rangers from Yosemite National Park in California have been sharing updates on social media that detail behind-the-scenes animal behaviour as they roam through the park while visitors stay away due to the coronavirus outbreak. And it seems that they're really making the most of it.
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"So we’ve been getting a lot of questions actually about: what are the animals doing since the park has been closed? And for the most part, I think they’re having a party," Ranger Kate, a wildlife biologist at the park, said during a Facebook Live event earlier this month. Kate, who specialises in bears, had some insights into the park's black bears' behaviour: "So, for the bears, they normally have to pick through these little corridors that they have to move through in the valley to get from point A to B. 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."
The park's black bears have just emerged from hibernation and are out and about looking for food, while exploring territory they've previously shied away from due to the presence of humans. Yosemite is home to around 300 to 500 black bears, and rangers say sightings have become more frequent with the absence of visitors. In fact, shortly after Ranger Kate's Facebook chat, a camera tracked a bear scrambling up a tree.
"The bear sat high on a branch for a little while and then struggled to decide how to safely get back down, making this one of the more entertaining wildlife sightings we've had this spring," rangers said.
It's not just the bears who are getting bolder; bobcats, squirrels, wolves, rabbits and coyotes have all been displaying more daring behaviour. Speaking to Reuters, Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean said with the park closed to visitors since 20 March "nature is obviously welcoming the change" and animal behaviour has become "less secretive".