Yosemite bears prefer minivans

Courtesy Kevin Collins/Creative Commons License.

Inspired to visit Yosemite, perhaps after watching the Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea?

Don’t drive the minivan. Bad idea. The SUV also might be a little risky.

So say researchers who analyzed seven years of data on the vehicles broken into by black bears in Yosemite Valley.

Of nine categories of cars and trucks, minivans and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) vied for number one on the black bear break-in list every year from 2001 to 2007.

Bears had twice as many SUVs to choose from, based on a one-year sample (2004-2005) of total cars parked overnight, yet they seemed to seek out minivans at four times the expected rate. In contrast, sedans — almost as numerous as SUVs in the Valley — had half the rate of expected break-ins.

Study authors do not know why. Maybe minivans carry tantalizing remnants of spilled food and drink. Or the occupants unwisely store large caches of food in coolers or grocery bags (Food was an irresistable lure for about half of all the cars broken into by black bears). It could be easier to pop open the rear side window easier in minivans. Or the results are skewed by the penchant of a few renegade bears.

The study by first author Stewart Breck and his co-authors at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo., is published in the Journal of Mammology.

The full text of this article, “Selective Foraging for Anthropogenic Resources by Black Bears: Minivans in Yosemite National Park,” [Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 90, No. 5, October 2009] is available at: http://allenpress.com/system/files/pdfs/emails/2009/10/mamm-90-05-1041-1044.pdf. [NOTE: This link will download a PDF file.]

copyright Carol Morton

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