My latest venture with three kids in tow was to Mammoth, a five hour drive north east of Los Angeles. We spent four days last week hiking, mountain biking, climbing, fishing, boating.. Oh and bear spotting.
Mammoth Lakes is a relatively young town located in the Inyo National Forest, of Mono County. The town is surrounded by acres of forest and is bordered by the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas. Yosemite National Park’s eastern entrance is located just 32 miles north of town and its short 100-mile drive to the valley floor. The town occupies a site in the southern half of Mono County, a stunningly diverse region of eastern California. Comprising 3,018 square miles, the County’s area is marked by the startling contrast between its eastern and western boundaries.
Bounded on the west by the Sierra Nevada crest, this region is characterized by its mountains, lakes, streams and forests. Unlike the gentle, rolling escarpment west of the crest, the eastern slope of the Sierra plunges dramatically to the valley floors.
The town of Mammoth Lakes is situated in the southwestern, mountainous region of the county, and many of its trails, campgrounds and roads either abut or cross the crest of the Sierra.
As for the bears, every time I’ve visited here I’ve encountered a bear…. once in a trash can, once my dog chased a mama bear up a tree with her baby, once resting on a golf course and yet another time out on a hike. With more of us vacationing in the mountains, and with wildlife showing up closer and closer to civilization, black bear encounters in the Sierra Nevada and nearby areas are becoming increasingly more common.
Here are a few surprising Black Bear facts
Black bears are primarily vegetarians. Ninety-seven percent of their diet is seeds, berries and other vegetarian items. Carrion, road kill, etc, are luxury items. When bears rummage through human food, they’re looking for rotting cabbage or lettuce. If they find a pizza crust or a piece of meat will they take advantage of it? Yes, but they’re primarily grass eaters.
They’re predominately gentle creatures who are genetically programmed to run from humans. People are 350 times more likely to be struck directly on the head by a bolt of lightning than to be attacked by a black bear. It’s more dangerous to be walking down a city street than to experience an encounter with one of these animals.
Mothers will not do anything to protect their cubs. People base that belief on their own experience with their own kids. In reality, biologists have entered dens and taken the cubs away from the mothers – and walked out alive. Fifty-one percent of all black bears die before they’re 18 months old.
They don’t eat dogs. All dogs bark at bears. And all bears run from dogs. Bears are vegetarians – they don’t make a living off dogs and cats.