What’s the best way to test a bear canister? Recruit a bear to try to open it.
That’s just the strategy that the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center near West Yellowstone has adopted. The center is home to a collection of bears known for their crafty ability to get into human food.
"Our bears are all problem bears, bears that gained access to unnatural, unsecured foods," Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center Facilities Manager Randy Gravatt told KTVM Reporter Katherine Mozzone.
With a history in food retrieval, these bears are ideal product testers.
In order to test the canister, center staff bait it with fish and meat. They then leave it in the pen with the animal and wait to see if it passes the test. The canister has to survive for more than 60 minutes in order to achieve the “resistant” title given by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. If the canister doesn’t, it goes back to the drawing board.
“They'd have to make it thicker, stronger, better, a better latch system," Gravatt said.
Once a canister gets approval, the manufacturer can sell the product to national parks, state parks and federal lands.
Today, canisters are successful roughly 60 percent of the time, up significantly from the 10 percent success rate common when canisters first began to be tested 10 years ago.
Boulder, CO Tests Trash Cans at Discovery Center
Four bears were euthanized in Colorado last year, after they had easy-access to human food. The City Council in Boulder, Colorado voted to enforce stricter policies for trash storage to protect the bears. In 2014, Boulder's Western Disposal Company turned to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center to test their newly designed trash cans. If the bears at the Discovery Center do not get in the trash cans after 60 minutes and the latch is still intact, the product can be labeled ‘bear resistant.’