Yosemite National Park has been closed since March 20th to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but in the absence of flocks of tourists, wildlife is thriving and animal populations are reclaiming the park’s empty spaces.
4.6 million tourists visited Yosemite valley in 2019, but now, only 100 to 200 essential park employees monitor the National Park. The area is quiet except for the roar of the Merced River, so bobcats, bears, and coyotes roam freely near cabins and buildings. One park employee says the number of bear sightings has quadrupled. The air moving through the ponderosa pines is free of exhaust and bird populations are thriving as well.
This closure is expected to be the longest in park history. As of this past weekend, there were no reported cases within the park, but the small local grocery store, Village Market, is still abiding by social distancing practices. Entry at the park gates is permitted only to employees, essential workers and those who can show the deeds to their houses.
One positive outcome we have seen from this pandemic is the renewed health of natural spaces including reduced air pollution which exposed the tops of the Himalayas to the human eye and endangered turtles successfully hatching on empty beaches. For animal populations, reduced human traffic is a welcome invitation to reclaim their habitats.