The usually happy summer season at California’s bustling, beloved Yosemite National Park has been dampened after a fallen tree branch killed two young hikers and a campground was closed due to plague in squirrels.
The large limb from a black oak fell on the tent of the two young campers as they slept Friday, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. The campers, described only as under 18, were both dead when rangers arrived at the Upper Pines Campground, he said.
Large fallen limbs are a common occurrence at Yosemite, and they have occasionally led to deaths.
Meanwhile, park officials said Friday they will temporarily close another popular campsite after two squirrels died of plague.
The Tuolumne Meadows Campground will close from noon Monday through noon Friday so authorities can treat the area with a flea-killing insecticide. Plague is carried by rodents and is spread by fleas, but transmission between people is rare.
”Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public,” said Dr. Karen Smith, director of the state Health Department.
A child fell ill with the plague after camping with his family at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The park reopened Crane Flat on Friday after treating that campground. The child has been recovering in a hospital.
Plague can be treated and cured by antibiotics given soon after infection, but it’s deadly when treatment is delayed.
Since 1970, 42 people in California have contracted plague, resulting in nine deaths. Health officials find plague-infected animals every year, mostly in the mountains and foothills.