October 26, 2009

If You Go Out In The Woods Today, You Better Not Go In A Minivan

Obviously, this can't wait until the Friday Freakout: Bearologists from the US Department of Agriculture found that black bears in Yosemite National Park are more than four times as likely to break into a minivan to steal food. Of 908 break-ins between 2001 and 2007, 29% involved minivans, even though minivans were only 7% of the car population. Nearly all break-ins happened at night.

Besides the testable hypotheses that pop-out rear windows make minivans easier to break into, and minivans often carry kids, who are more likely to spill food that attracts bears, the scientists put forward two theories in their paper, which was published in the current issue of Journal of Mammology, and which is available online in its entirety:

[I]t is possible that passengers of minivans were more prone to leave large caches of food (e.g., coolers or grocery bags) in vehicles parked overnight. Evidence from the incident reports (Table 2) supports this contention by indicating that most vehicles broken into (regardless of vehicle class) had evidence of available food.

...

Finally, selection of minivans could reflect the foraging decisions of a few individuals that developed a learned behavior for breaking into minivans. Anecdotal evidence supports this idea and indicates that most of the break-ins resulted from a maximum of 5 bears and possibly as few as 2 individuals.

So either no one in a minivan is safe, or there are 2-5 bears in California who hate minivans as much as everyone else does. If there were ever a clearer, more compelling argument for more research, I can't think what it'd be.

SELECTIVE FORAGING FOR ANTHROPOGENIC RESOURCES BY BLACK BEARS: MINIVANS IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK [asmjournals.org via npr]

2 Comments

Maybe they smell all the crumbs in the carseats.

It would have been funnier if the study were done in Yellowstone Park and made mention of "pic-i-nic baskets".

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