Bear burnout: Officials expand bear-resistant products program as grizzlies tire of testing

Seeley, a four-year-old grizzly bear, tries to find a weakness in a test cooler stuffed with food at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone on Friday, May 9, 2023.

Samuel Wilson/Chronicle/Report for America

Grizzly bears use a wide variety of techniques to break into containers. Sometimes, they’ll finesse a claw into a lid to pry it open. Often, they’ll slam a container into a wall, or chew on the corners and weak points until it breaks.

Chelsea Davis’ favorite technique is the “CPR” method. A bear will place its front paws on a container, then press down with all its brawn. As soon as the material flexes, the bear will focus on that area, pushing harder and harder until the container cracks.

On Wednesday, a 19-year-old grizzly named Luna spent an hour hammering away at a cooler at Washington State University’s Bear Research Center. Staff safely pulled the item from the yard while Davis distracted Luna with a spoonful of frosting.

Through her work with bears, Davis has learned how fragile humans are in comparison. Bear-resistant coolers are heavy,

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