Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blog # 29

A Bear Invades the Ahwahnee Hotel

Black Bear at Sequoia-Kings Canyon  NPS Photo

This is a continuation of the last blog post. It's from the book I'm writing about being a Park Ranger

One quiet winter morning at around three A.M. I got a call from the desk at the Ahwahnee Hotel. The excited night man was hollering into the phone that a bear had gotten into the hotel and was running frantically around trying to get out. The Ahwahnee is the “high end” of the Yosemite Hotels. I rolled in and grabbed a shovel out of the back of the patrol wagon and went in the front door.

It turned out that the night shift baker had propped the kitchen door open so he could empty several containers of garbage without having to open the door each time. On one trip to the “bear proof” dumpster a medium sized black bear had gone into the kitchen. When the baker went in for another load the bear panicked and was bellowing and running around the kitchen. The baker jumped up on the big grill and yelled for help. Hearing the commotion, the night man opened the door to the kitchen and was nearly bowled over by the bear as it barreled into the main lobby area.

When I showed up, the bear was in a large sun room that surrounds a big stone fireplace. The bear was jumping onto the expensive furniture trying to find a way out. He had already pooped on the Navaho rugs and was in total bear-panic. I banged the shovel on the floor and advanced on the bear. It ran around the big fireplace and into the lobby, so I opened all the doors in the sun room and went after the bear. Soon the bear was after me and I backed around near one of the doors, and when the bear advanced with his hackles raised, I banged the shovel on the stones at the fireplace and he darted out one of the open doors.

I had to kill three bears during my tenure as a National Park Ranger and I hated every experience. It is one thing to hunt and kill an animal for food. It’s quite another to have to take its life because people have gotten the animal used to handouts. Most of the bears had been fed by ignorant park visitors. Feeding a bear is like being on a homicide jury and voting for the death penalty for the bear. A black bear is a creature of habit. Once the bear learns to get food it will return over and over to repeat the experience. To save these magnificent creatures and to save the rangers from the terrible duty required of them, the animals should be left alone and campers should use secure storage for their groceries.

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