Although we’ve suspected it for a while, the New York Times recently confirmed that Adirondack black bears are smarter than the average, well, bear. A female black bear named Yellow-Yellow, who makes her home in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack park, has managed to defeat the latest in bear canister technology, the BearVault 500.
Four years ago, New York State made bear canisters a requirement for overnight campers in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Black bears in the area were no longer fooled by “bear bags” – the method of hanging food between trees with a rope – having quickly learned that a bag hanging high above could be released by a simple swipe or bite of the rope. Even the wire bear cable over Marcy Dam was no match for the bears.
Now, the popular and seemingly indestructible BearVault canister has been repeatedly compromised by Yellow-Yellow and her cohorts.
Made of “super rugged” polycarbonate plastic, the BearVault easily withstood its test date with the bears at the Folsom County Zoo in California. Even the 1,000 pound grizzlies in Yellowstone haven’t succeeded in breaking into it. But it’s no match for the Adirondack bears who use strategy, not brute strength, to crack the vault.
Yellow-Yellow, it seems, has learned how to get by the double-tabbed locking mechanism on the canister – a system that takes the average human (with handy opposable thumbs, I might add) a few tries to get the hang of. It is suspected that she depresses one tab with her tooth, turns the lid with her head, depresses the second tab, and then opens it.
Although adept at stealing campers’ food, Yellow-Yellow has not shown aggression or boldness around people, and runs off when confronted.
Engineers at BearVault are currently working on the next generation of bear-proof technology and plan to have a prototype of the new BearVault 550 ready for next year. State officials have already agreed to test the new canister by filling it with food and stashing it somewhere on Yellow-Yellow’s home turf.