Yosemite Bear Tracker lets you follow from a safe distance

Peek into the secret lives of Yosemite National Park's black bears with an online GPS tracker that lets you follow in their footsteps.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Yosemite black bear.

NPS/Bob Roney

You can now get closer to the bears living in Yosemite National Park in the US without encroaching on their actual territory.

The park's new online Bear Tracker, launched on Monday, features an interactive map showing the locations of bears equipped with GPS collars. You can choose a bear and zoom in to follow its wanderings.

The map tells you how many miles the bear has traveled in a single day and over the last 30 days. One marker, for example, shows a black bear that covered 6.58 miles (10.6 kilometers) over the last 30 days.

The map also contains a sobering reminder about the dangers of vehicles traveling through Yosemite. You can toggle a setting to see the locations of bears hit by vehicles in 2016. A closer inspection tells you if the bear survived. Not many do. Yosemite's rangers hope the bear tracker will raise awareness of the animals and encourage people to drive slowly in the park.

The Bear Tracker data is delayed so people can't use it to find the exact location of a bear at any given moment. Yosemite will also hide the locations of the bears when they hibernate in the fall and winter months so they can't be tracked down and disturbed.

The Bear Tracker is part of the Keep Bears Wild website, which also hosts blog posts from Yosemite's bear team and information about proper food storage and how to view bears from a safe distance.

"This high-resolution data that identifies the bear's location has allowed park managers to better understand responses of bears to seasonal changes in the distribution of natural foods, as well as the lure of human food," Yosemite notes.

Somewhere between 300 and 500 black bears live in Yosemite. The Bear Tracker currently shows tracking for three bears, but that could change as the bear team chooses to release more data. The number of active GPS bear collars fluctuates as collars fall off and new collars are equipped.

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