Yellow-Yellow, roughly 20 years of age, of the Marcy Dam-Lake Colden corridor in the High Peaks Wilderness ascended to her heavenly den for an eternal hibernation after being slain by a hunter’s bullet on October 21, 2012 in the town of Jay (as reported by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise).
Yellow-Yellow was a shy, small female black bear, named after the color of the tags placed on each ear by New York State Department of Conservation wildlife biologists in the early 2000’s. She was known more for stealth and ingenuity than brawn, which eventually led to her notoriety. As bears go, she typically avoided contact with humans, being more thief than brigand.
Apparently, advanced age brought about an alleged increased aggressiveness toward campers and hikers with food, which is a common phenomenon among the animal kingdom as anyone observing geriatrics at a Denny’s around five in the afternoon can attest. Perhaps this aggressiveness played a role in her recent demise.
She became notorious for her ability to thwart the BearVault, a supposedly black bear resistant canister used for safeguarding foodstuffs from hungry bruins. Despite the canisters thorough testing using both black and grizzly bears, Yellow-Yellow remains the only bear to ever open the lid and extract the many goodies inside. Apparently, she enhanced her repertoire during the spring of 2011, with reports of her thwarting the Bear Keg, another type of bear resistant canister, although it appears that canister was improperly sealed.
Yellow-Yellow became widely famous for her unique talent when her exploits were featured in a 2009 New York Times article. In addition, she was featured in the Adirondack Explorer and even here at the Adirondack Almanack. As her fame as a talented thief grew, many appropriated meals were attributed to her, whether or not she was sighted in the immediate area.
Apparently, opening BearVaults was not her only talent, as she was allegedly caught red-handed stealing a backpack on video earlier this year, although it is difficult to clearly see both yellow tags in this video.
She is predeceased by her parents, two unknown bears of the High Peaks region. She is survived by numerous offspring, although it is not clear of their current whereabouts, or whether she inculcated her unique talent to any of them. There have been reports of possible protégés accompanying her in years past, but none have been independently verified.
Her ear tags were absent at the time of her death. Perhaps she discovered an equally ingenious way out of them. Unfortunately, she was not as successful with her radio collar, which allowed for her identification. On the other hand, perhaps she is smarter than the rest of us, and the reverse is actually true.
Although many shall lament the death of this extraordinary bear, there are probably some individuals feeling mixed emotions concerning her passing. Hikers and campers that purchased the BearVault to use in the High Peaks region may be relieved they can once again venture into the area without the constant threat of having their delicious nutrition bars pilfered. In addition, those backpackers, who due to no fault of their own became victims of this intelligent bear, may be relieved to hear of her recent passing too. They may even think she met her just desserts.
One might think the manufacturers of the BearVault are relieved now that the only bear ever to thwart their product is no longer a threat. For years, they played a Cold War-like battle with this crafty bear, making innovating changes to the design of the canister to no avail as Yellow-Yellow foiled every one of them. Jamie Hogan of BearVault, Inc. showed no such ambivalence, as he wrote with great respect about his nemesis, “She was a very unique bear- just what natural selection is really all about.”
There will be no services held for Yellow-Yellow. Instead, anyone hiking or backpacking through the Marcy Dam-Lake Colden corridor should bow their head and observe a few moments of silence in respect for this extraordinary bear. Perhaps using a BearVault as a makeshift altar, if one is handy.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Yellow-Yellow’s name to the Wildlife Conservation Society or New York State Department of Conservation, through the Gift to Wildlife on your New York State income tax form. Both organizations are at the forefront of studying and protecting black bears in the Adirondacks and beyond.
Rest in peace, Yellow-Yellow. You will be missed. Wherever you are, may you find a plentiful supply of BearVaults to open, each filled with your favorite backpacking treats.
Photograph: DEC wildlife staff Ed Reed and Ben Tabor fit Yellow-Yellow with a radio collar in 2011, courtesy of DEC.