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Black bears rate minivans as top dining vehicle

The foraging critters in Yosemite seem to have made minivans their first or second choice to break into when searching for food, according to a recent study.

October 14, 2009|Carla Hall

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, foraging bears have made minivans their first or second choice among tens of thousands of SUVs, sedans, sports cars and other vehicles in Yosemite National Park.

At least that's the conclusion of an article in this month's issue of the Journal of Mammalogy, which details a study of 908 bear-on-vehicle break-ins from 2001 to 2007.

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 the best source, according to the study.

The minivan earned this dubious distinction for a variety of reasons, but the primary one was this: Minivans reek of food.

Study authors surmise that the 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 leave coolers and bags of food in their cars. The exposed snacks are an invitation to vandalism, because the bears have learned to open the rear side window of a minivan like the pop-top on a soda can.

The report also raises the possibility that the break-ins are the work of just a few recidivist bears; once they realized what a find the minivans were, they targeted them specifically.

Moral of the study: If you're going to Yosemite, store your food in a food locker -- but first get the minivan washed.

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carla.hall@latimes.com

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