Yosemite: Pick some apples, keep the bears away

Park staff help visitors and volunteers pick apples from a historic orchard in Yosemite Valley.
(National Park Service)

How can picking apples in Yosemite National Park help manage the park’s bear population? Removing the fruit keeps critters away from the more populated areas of the park, including Yosemite Valley, and keeps their diet wild, park officials say.

And though visitors may want to take a snapshot (not a selfie!) of a bear, it’s best they aren’t as visible. More on that later.

The park is holding an apple-picking day July 30 for visitors and volunteers who come to two historic orchards, one in the Curry Village parking area and a second near the horse stables. Both are in the tourist-centric Yosemite Valley.

The trees likely were planted by James Lamon, who arrived in 1859 and is thought to be the first settler in the valley. He built a cabin and planted the fruit trees near the present-day stable.


In 1941, Ansel Adams made the apple trees famous in a snowy photo he shot with Half Dome in the background.

It’s the 16th year the park has hosted an apple-picking event that officials say is as much about bears as it is about fruit.

In the 1990s, when bears were regularly breaking into cars to get coolers and other tasty treats, the park started a program to educate visitors on how to keep food safe from the animals’ eyes and sensitive noses.

Since then, bear-people encounters have dropped 90% and property damage has decreased 87%. It’s all about keeping human and introduced food -- and the apples are part of that -- away from the bears.

As for the apples, people may come and take as many as they like. But one word of warning: They’re sour. Best for baking, not eating, a park spokeswoman says.