Yosemite Bears Prefer Minivans for Snack Attacks

Be sure to clean up your vehicle, or just take the sports car next time

By Olsen Ebright
|  Thursday, Oct 15, 2009  |  Updated 8:59 PM PDT
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Yosemite Bears Prefer Minivans for Snack Attacks

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A black bear has his sights on your minivan.

When it comes to snack time, black bears in Yosemite National Park have a favorite automotive treasure trove: the minivan.

From 2001 to 2007, bears broke into 908 vehicles at the park. Of those break-ins, a whopping 26 percent were minivans, according to the Journal of Mammalogy.

Top Cars Black Bears Target:

  • Minivan -- 26.0 percent
  • Sport-utility vehicle -- 22.5 percent
  • Small car -- 17.1 percent
  • Sedan -- 13.7 percent
  • Truck -- 11.9 percent
  • Van -- 4.2 percent
  • Sports car -- 1.7 percent
  • Coupe -- 1.7 percent
  • Station wagon -- 1.4 percent

But why minivans? Why not full-sized vans or perhaps the station wagon? According to the article, the Yosemite foragers are smarter than the average bear. They're actually contemplating risk versus reward:

"Selection of minivans by bears in Yosemite National Park was the likely consequence of efforts to maximize caloric gain and minimize costs by targeting vehicles with higher probabilities of payoff. ... The trade-off between food acquisition and penal actions by humans likely pressured bears to target vehicles with the highest probability of attaining food," according to the article.

There are a few other theories out there, according to the article:

  • "First, it is possible that minivans were more likely to emit food odors regardless of whether they contained meaningful amounts of food available."
  • "Second, it 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."
  • "Third, it is possible that minivans were structurally easier to break into than other vehicles."

Plus, it's possible the break-ins are the result of just a few bad bears, and not a reflection of the whole population -- very similar to the Jellystone Park break-ins.

Either way, next time you visit Yosemite, be sure to take the Lamborghini. Or as Carla Hall of the LA Times points out: "Store your grub in a food locker on your way into the park." Good advice.

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