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September 2010

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Fish Camp, CA :       August 31, 2010

The culprit behind a break in at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road

The culprit behind a break in at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road owner Max Stauffer knew all too well what the damaged windows and mess in the kitchen of the popular Yosemite area attraction meant: He had had a break in.

However, it wasn’t a human that broke in to the kitchen Thursday night, but a juvenile black bear looking for food. The hungry omnivore had attempted to pry open one window before moving to an adjacent one, which he successfully pried open before climbing in.

Fortunately for Stauffer, the damage done was light. “It was pretty minimal, he broke windows and screens and ate some raisins,” Stauffer said. “Luckily, he didn’t get to the fridge. Spotter was in here, so I’m sure he was barking a lot. I’m just glad that he didn’t get too involved with the bear. The bear relatively small, but he was big enough. “

Spotter is Stauffer’s Border collie, a friendly dog who is well known to locals and regular riders of the historic steam train. In fact, photos of Spotter tend to get more attention than any other on the rail road’s Facebook page.

Stauffer estimated the bear’s size to be about 150-200 pounds, as he and other businesses in the area had caught glimpses of him recently. “We have seen him around here quite a bit, but he only broke in once. When they break in, that’s when I call the resource people,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer called a wildlife professional who then brought a trap up Saturday morning. When Stauffer arrived to the property Sunday morning, the bear was inside. The bear will be relocated to an area away from people, so he doesn’t become dependent on food from humans. “Both in the Sierra National Forst, where we are, and in Yosemite National Park, the officials always tell you to please let the animals stay wild, then they don’t count on humans for food. That’s what drives them to do what they’re doing, but they need to be able to forage for their own food. It’s a lot safer that way,” he said.

This is actually the fourth break in they’ve had at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road. “It’s not uncommon up here. Most of the time they’ll just knock a few trash cans over looking for stuff. We work hard to keep the exposure down. We have a bear proof bin and don’t leave anything out. But they recognize trash cans. Just because something looks like a garbage bag they’ll rip it open, even if it’s just our recycling.”

Another incident several years ago involved a mother and her two cubs. Stauffer said the cubs were small enough to climb through the windows of a residence on site. The two cubs scavenged for food from the kitchen and passed it back out the windows to their mother. “I came up on the mother bear, and all of a sudden two more came pouring out the windows. It was a pretty chaotic scene,” he said.

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road is located moments from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The popular attraction has two authentic steam-powered Shay locomotives that operate on track once used by loggers over a century ago, taking guests through the Sierra National Forest. The oldest of the two locomotives is 97 years old. On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, the railroad offers “Moonlight Tours” where guests enjoy a barbecue dinner, ride the train to the picnic area where there is entertainment. Also located on the property is the Thornberry Historic Museum with authentic equipment from the logging era, gold panning and a bookstore.