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The minivan: lunchbox on wheels for Yosemite bears

October 13, 2009 |  4:29 pm
Blackbear It’s official. Those discerning car critics, the black bears of Yosemite, have voted the minivan their most sought-after vehicle.

Not to drive, of course; just to break into.

Year after year, hungry bears have made minivans their first or second choice among SUVs, sedans, sports cars and other vehicles in their search for food. The bears – clever foragers – choose minivans even though sedans and SUVs are more plentiful in Yosemite National Park.

Or at least that’s the conclusion of an article in this month's issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, which published a study of 908 bear-on-vehicle break-ins from 2001 to 2007. According to the study’s authors, bears searching for the most calories (who knows when they’ll eat again?) at the least risk (in this case, harassment by park rangers) judged minivans as their best bet.

The minivan earned this dubious distinction for a variety of reasons, but the primary one was: They reek of food.
Study authors surmise that minivans are more aromatic than other cars because they are designed for families with children, “and small children in particular are notorious for spilling food and drink while riding in vehicles.” Researchers also suggest that minivan passengers are more prone to leaving coolers and bags of food in their vehicles.

Yet another factor, according to the study, is that bears can open a rear side window on a minivan like a pop-top on a beer can.

What, then, was the author’s advice to minivan owners?  Store your grub in a food locker on your way into the park.

-- Carla Hall

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service