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‘Mules to the Rescue’: Why Mules Are Key Members of Yosemite’s Search-and-Rescue Team

When you think of emergencies in a national park, it’s easy to imagine park rangers in climbing helmets pulling off a big tactical rescue. However, in some cases, the ones pulling off a search and rescue (SAR) are mules, working with human professionals, of course. 

Mules, which are part horse and part donkey, are amazing at climbing trails and carrying heavy loads. The combination makes the animal great at SAR operations.

Yosemite National Park officials recently shared a series of posts to celebrate their mules and the vital part they play on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, also known as YOSAR.

“When injuries happen, it’s mules to the rescue! Why mules, do you ask? Because if someone injures their ankle at Nevada Fall, it’s going to take a whole team of rescuers to carry them all the way out to the trailhead,” says the post on Instagram. “Every time we send a mule instead, we save approximately $650 in staff expenses, not to mention leaving rescuers available to quickly respond to other more urgent matters.”

Yosemite officials say the mules also help with trail repairs and transporting tools to maintain other parts of the park. 

Mules are not new to Yosemite and other parks. In fact, mules have helped maintain trails in the U.S. National Park System for more than 100 years.

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