While Yogi the animated bear's liking for human food has been the mainstay of the character's humour, it's no laughing matter when it comes to wild bears whose health have suffered from the high sugar content in junk food.
Alarmed by wild bears becoming addicted to human junk food, park rangers have been taking extreme measures to get them to kick the habit.
Bears in Yosemite National Park in California have adopted the wildlife version of a health food diet after increased safety measures largely blocked them from scavenging for food on camping grounds over the last 15 years.
An estimated 350 to 400 black bears roam Yosemite, one of the most popular US tourist destinations. Interactions between the park’s bears and people reached a record level in 1998 as the animals raided campgrounds and broke into cars in search of groceries and leftovers, according to Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman.
After recording 1,584 human-bear interactions that year, the park adopted a policy in 1999 that included placing bear-resistant food storage containers at campgrounds and cracking down more forcefully on people leaving out items like chips or bread, Gediman said.
The initiative seems to have paid off in the park, where waterfalls and sequoia trees draw tourists from around the globe. A research paper in this month’s edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment found a 63% drop in the proportion of human food in the diet of Yosemite’s bears.