While the California state flag displays a grizzly bear, you won’t find any in Sequoia National Park — or the rest of the state. There hasn’t been a grizzly spotted in California since the early 20th century. But, black bears are very common in the park. Omnivorous, curious and with voracious appetites for just about any food they can get their claws on, black bears are a force to be reckoned with.
Bear safety is a huge priority of the park service. Whether visitors are camping out in the frontcountry or trekking through the wilderness, there are important rules to follow to reduce the incidence of encounters between humans and bears. The most important rules are to keep a distance of at least 300 feet from a bear, and to use bear-safe canisters for storing food. If a bear comes to associate humans with food, it will lose its natural fear, and therefore become a threat to visitors.
Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are a genetically distinct subspecies of the bighorn sheep found across the mountains of western North America. Once numerous, these sheep were driven nearly to extinction because of hunting and from diseases carried by domesticated sheep. They have made a slow comeback, particularly in the southern Sierra Nevada, where several herds roam free on the rocky alpine crags high in the mountains. Yet, the sheep remain federally protected.
If you’re in Sequoia National Park during springtime, watch out — your car might get hit by some unlikely vandals. It sounds ridiculous, but marmots have been known to dismantle and damage the undercarriages of parked automobiles in the park in search of antifreeze. The potentially hazardous chemical attracts the animals, whose natural habitats have been disturbed by the construction of parking lots. Sometimes, marmots even climb up under the hoods of cars that then exit the park. One legendary marmot ended up hitching a ride all the way to Santa Monica this way — a humorous episode that underscores the often competing demands of increased access for tourists and the preservation of habitats.