Posted by: GeekHiker | October 25, 2009

Those Bears Are Smart, I’m ‘Tellin Ya

Camping in Yosemite Valley, unlike the rest of the park, has certain unique factors.  Namely the fact that humans and bears have been interacting for far, far too long.  This has left the resident bear population very accustomed to seeing humans as a food source, leading to a nightly contest between ranger and bear.  Bears wander through the campgrounds looking for easy Snickers bars, rangers chase them off hoping they’ll go back to eating berries.

Anyone who thinks that bears are just dumb, aggressive animals could not be further from the truth.  Currently, all food has to be stored in large bear-boxes at each campsite.  Why?  Because they’ve been known to get into cars, bear-proof garbage cans, even take running leaps from nearby boulders and stand on each others backs to reach food hanging from trees.

And now, this, seen this morning on Salon.com:

For Yosemite bears, dinner arrives in a minivan

What’s bigger than a picnic basket and even better than one in the eyes of black bears that live in Yosemite National Park? A study published this month in the Journal of Mammalogy says it’s minivans driven by families with children who leave behind a trail of spilled juice boxes, Cheerios and coolers carrying other snacks.

Park scientists have found that the bears tore up minivans more frequently than other types of vehicles. It found that minivans represented 29 percent of the 908 vehicles torn into by bears between 2001 and 2007, even though they made up just 7 percent of the cars that visited Yosemite.

The researchers investigated the relationship after noticing that bears seemed to target that particular vehicle type.

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Responses

  1. So the question is are minivan riders prone to behaviors that encourage bear response (eg the coating of juicy fingerprints on door handles, children running around)

    OR are have the bears learned that minivan=snack.

    The quote implies that bears have learned the meaning of correlation. Or simply that humans can’t distinguish between causation and correlation??

    A good experiment would be four cars:
    1) Minivan, uber-clean
    2) Minivan, sticky
    3) Not minivan, uber-clean
    4) Not minivan, sticky

    and compare the no. of attacks

  2. I would totally choose Snickers over berries too…unless the berries also came with yogurt and granola. And then it would be a tough decision.

    Yogi would be so proud of these bears!

  3. Animals… people keep underestimating them.

  4. m4891 – If only the NPS had the budget to buy four cars and test them that way!

    Ruby – I wonder if bears eat yogurt?

    Narami – Indeed. Though bears don’t freak me out as much as raccoons, who will stand their ground and fight you for the food!

  5. correlation != causation

    a small fact that our journalists neglect

    haven’t read the orig. article, can’t say anything about the NPS guys

  6. Around lake tahoe, the bears love to break into houses. They know the fridge has food and they usually break a window, go to the kitchen and open or turn over the fridge. I told my boss we need to put the bears on our payroll, since they are keeping us in business with the broken windows and window screens.


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