Potwisha camper reports bear encounter


While sound asleep in a Sequoia National Park campground, the last thing anyone wants to wake up to is a bear standing over them and examining their sleeping bag. But that’s what was reported to occur Wednesday morning (June 17) at Potwisha Campground in the Sierra Nevada foothills three miles above the Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain.          

According to the visitor who reported the incident, a 25-year-old man from Santa Cruz was awakened by a black bear at 6:30 a.m. The bear nudged the man’s sleeping bag then stepped on the man who exited the sleeping bag and ran away. 

The bear followed the man for a short distance then turned around and grabbed the man’s sleeping bag, dragging it to the edge of the campsite. Other campers told park rangers that they banged on pots and pans and scared the bear away from the area. 

As a result of the encounter, the camper sustained minor injuries: lacerations on his back and a small puncture wound. The startled camper refused any further medical care offered by park staff.

Encounters of this type are extremely rare except where food is improperly stored. In addition, a bear could be emboldened if it was previously fed or had otherwise obtained food from park visitors. 

This bear was reported to not have a tag in its ear. A tag is like the Park Service’s three-strikes law. Too many encounters and the fed bear becomes a dead bear. 

Park rangers have posted the area with warnings to be on the lookout for increased bear activity. Park bear technicians and campground rangers are currently trying to locate the bear that was involved in the incident. 

“Black bears in our national parks are wild, beautiful animals,” said Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “We ask that visitors admire them from a safe distance and to secure food and other scented items.”  

They’re WILD— In an independent survey, visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said that the number one thing they hope see while there is a black bear. But the responsibility for campers and all park visitors is to make sure the bears remain wild animals and never lose their inherent fear of humans.

The key to this is simple: Never, ever leave food where a bear, or any wild animal, might gain access to it. And no matter how cute they look, or hungry, or tame, do not feed a wild animal for numerous reasons, the most important being the safety of you and your companions.

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