From large predators that prowl the forests to tiny creatures that flit through the night sky, here are some animals to look for when wildlife watching in the park.
The name is perhaps misleading since the 500 black bears that roam Yosemite have blond, brown or black fur. In summer, the bears forage on grasses, berries, ants and insect larvae. In fall, they fill up on acorns, preparing for hibernation. They spend winter in dens, hollow trees or caves. Males can reach up to 250 pounds and females up to 150 pounds.
Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep
The park’s only endangered species and one of its rarest animals, about 40 bighorn sheep live in and around steep, rocky slopes above 10,000 feet. Look for them near Tioga Pass. Some wear GPS tracking collars. Rams sport large, curving horns. Ewes have shorter, spikier horns.
These solitary and elusive cats are not frequently spotted. They stalk their favorite prey, mule deer, but prefer to slink through the forest unseen. In addition to deer, they hunt coyotes and raccoons. Encounters with mountain lions can be dangerous. If you encounter a mountain lion, do not try to run. Instead, stand tall and attempt to scare it away.
Little Brown Bat
The little brown bat is one of 17 bat species found in Yosemite National Park. Adults range from 6-10 cm long and 5-14 grams in weight. Females are typically larger than males. Although they eat small aquatic insects that can be found at all elevations, they are the only bat species in Yosemite to raise its young at 8,000 feet.
Related to minks and otters, this tree-dwelling carnivore has no federal protections but is considered a sensitive species in the Sierra Nevada numbering less than 300 in Yosemite and the Sierra National Forest. Fishers are excellent climbers and prefer mid-elevation, mature forests where they den inside trees. They eat rodents and birds and weigh 4-12 pounds, which is the approximate size of a house cat. They can range in color from light blonde to dark brown.
Sierra Nevada Red Fox
One of two species of fox in the park, you’ll be extremely lucky to see this creature as it evaded detection by park biologists for more than 100 years. Extremely rare, this fox is smaller than the common low-elevation red foxes, weighing 4.5-9 pounds. It usually lives at elevations exceeding 7,000 feet, excelling in very cold winter temperatures. It eats small rodents and can range from reddish brown to silver or black in color.