A study published in the recent issue of The Journal of Mammology gives proof to the claim that the bears of Yosemite National Park have an affinity for the child-toting vehicles. Why the focus on the illustrious grocery-getter? Lets put two and two together...ok three.
Minivans plus families plus road trip equals food, spilled and otherwise. Even if food has been removed from the vehicle, the odor remains, according to the researchers. The report also says that over the years the black bears in the park have identified these vehicles as good food sources, information the bears pass on to their young.
The park noticed this trend and began a campaign to warn tourists of keeping food away from bears in 1998, but have noticed an increase in van break-ins this past year.
"Since 1998, we've had good success in getting bears not to associate vehicles with food," he said. "But that success has been waning a bit lately. Bear incidents have gone up this year compared to 2008." Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman says.
Maybe park visitors have stopped heeding the signs, or maybe the black bears are just getting smarter, but the numbers are up. As compared to last year, minivan assaults are up 17 percent, with 459 break-ins and $64,000 in damages this year to date.
So what are owners of minivans supposed to do? Stewart Breck, lead author of the study, suggests steam cleaning your car pre-trip to nix those pesky food odors.
One problem, kids will spill food on the trip, without fail. So a food locker might be a good idea too. Our advice? Do what the rangers tell you, and keep food out of your vehicle, and away from the bears.