Bronx Zoo bears are new Samsonite gorillas

September 07, 2005

In a scene reminiscent of the famous Samsonite luggage commercial when a gorilla puts the product's durability to the test, grizzly bears at the Bronx Zoo gave a bear-proof food canister designed for backpackers a real beating, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). But in spite of their best efforts, the bears could not open the canister, designed to secure food and garbage near backcountry campsites and thus reduce the number of human-bear encounters in the process.

In front of a large gathering of lunchtime visitors, Bronx Zoo keepers threw a bear canister filled with apples into the popular Bear Den exhibit, home of the zoo's four adult grizzly bears. The bears attempted to open, claw, crush, and bite their way into the container. After some 30 minutes of effort, the bears lost interest, leaving the scratched but still unopened container for keepers to recover.

In the Adirondack State Park, conservationists are working to minimize conflicts between black bears and campers. For the past four years, WCS has worked with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and outdoor retail stores to promote the use of bear canisters--manufactured by Garcia Machine--as the most effective means for backpackers to store their food and garbage. By providing canisters to outdoor retailers for rental to campers, holding group training sessions, and providing educational materials, WCS and its regional partners have reduced the conflicts between humans and bears in the Adirondacks.

The use of bear canisters in parts of the Adirondack State Park recently became mandatory for campers, according to a new regulation enacted by the DEC. According to the regulation, which went into effect on August 24, campers in the High Peaks Wilderness Area must use the canisters from April 1--November 30. "The new regulation will help ensure that Adirondack bears remain wild and break the cycle of their dependence on human food and garbage," said Zoë Smith, community coordinator for WCS' Adirondack Communities and Conservation Program. http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/press/pressrel/2005/2005102.html

Subjecting the canister to the weight and strength of the grizzly bear, one of the largest carnivores in the world, means the container provides more-than-adequate protection from the black bear, the grizzly bear's smaller cousin. Unlike grizzly bears, which are found in only a handful of locations in the lower 48 states, black bears occur throughout the country, often living in or near areas of human recreation and development. This proximity to populated areas has resulted in many bears becoming increasingly habituated to human food and garbage, a prelude to human-bear conflicts.

According to WCS' black bear research in the Lake Tahoe and Sierra Nevada region, black bears with access to garbage dumpsters and other sources of food become a third less active and weigh up to 30 percent more than bears living under wild conditions.
-end-
The locations of stores renting and selling canisters, information on canister use and brands, and more information about bears, is available at: www.wcs.org/adirondackbbear

Wildlife Conservation Society

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