Noted: Bears can now open car doors

The video embedded above was posted on the I Love Old Forge Facebook page this week. And, yep, that's a bear opening the doors of a minivan. There's a second video where the cubs mosey on out and into the van to explore.

Something that's obvious from this video: The bear uprising is approaching and a full on Planet of the Bears situation awaits us.

Seriously, though, bears are intelligent, curious, motivated, clever creatures. And they have collectively learned how to how operate car door handles during the last 10-15 years. From a Guardian article last year about bears opening doors in Yosemite:

According to Kirsten Leong, an expert in animal/human interactions and behaviours at the national parks service, the ability to open car doors is the latest in a long line of adaptations by bears to the presence and behaviours of humans. "They learn very quickly, if there's a reward, how to get that," she said. ...
The way this kind of behavioural change can spread throughout groups or populations of animals is called "social learning". A 2008 study in the Journal of Animal Behaviour, co-authored by Rachel Mazur - the branch chief of wildlife, visitor use and social science at Yosemite national park - found that "once initiated by an innovator, food-conditioned foraging behaviour in black bears does persist across multiple generations ... potentially putting it in the realm of traditions, but does it constitute culture?"

The door-opening behavior has also been observed in North Carolina.

In recent years bears have also figured out how to defeat some models of the canisters that backpackers use to store food. Almost a decade ago an Adirondack bear called Yellow-Yellow was credited with figuring out how to open the supposedly-bear-proof canisters, and other bears learned from there.

This is all fascinating and amazing and... a little troublesome. Because bears that associate human places with food sometimes end up in conflict with humans. And those cases usually don't end well for the bear.

So it's worth taking steps to keep human-supplied food sources away from bears and other wild animals. And definitely do not feed bears. It's illegal in New York State. And it's dangerous for both humans and bears.

Comments

I'm going to need a robot uprising movie where bears save the day because they don't want to live in a world without picnic baskets. Obviously Andy Serkis will play Yellow-Yellow, who was cryogenically frozen in 2008 to be studied by future scientists... the thawing process accidentally gives him the ability to speak english but he maintains all other bear attributes.

Boom, the movie wrote itself. Someone call Michael Bay and give me my money.

About 20 years ago I was camping in a tent at a state park near Old Forge with my family. That night, a bear broke the rear passenger window of our station wagon, climbed through the window, and reached into the trunk to help itself to some of our vittles. My dad had to unlock & open the door and scare the bear out of the car. None of us slept a wink the rest of the night. When we reported the incident to the park ranger the next morning, he said we were the SIXTH such incident reported that week.

I say that to say that this bear evolution has been a long time comin'.

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