If the idea of a bear rummaging through your campsite causes anxiety, you might want to stay away from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center at Yellowstone, where fully grown carnivores feast on all manner of insulated food containers on behalf of the Forest Service.
This one-of-a-kind consumer product watchdog uses captive animals as the testers in a spectacle akin to a rendition of the bear scene from The Revenant. Manufacturers subject their wares to this gauntlet of savagery to qualify for the coveted marketing advantage offered by “bear-resistant” accreditation, which is issued exclusively at the Discovery Center.
The human testers bait the coolers with bear-enticing foods before leaving the products out as a sacrificial offering to the wildlife park’s furry overlords.
The bears make for diligent inspectors: They throw their heavy gait against the plastic-shelled containers, gnaw at latches with powerful jaws, and fling the items around with gleeful abandon. If the coolers can survive for 60 minutes without a breach, they get the thumbs up and are considered bear-resistant.
Though it’s useful for consumers to know which coolers can keep their hot dogs safe, the scientific objective behind the bear testing is more profound. Bears that get into your cooler grow conditioned to think of campsites as reliable food sources, which increases the likelihood of human-bear conflict. Sturdy coolers help keep humans and bears apart, and thus are a cornerstone of wildlife stewardship.
Know Before You Go
Bear tests are conducted between April 1st and October 31st. Obviously the service is intended primarily for commercial manufacturers. However, there is nothing stopping you from testing your own gear if you pay the $500 fee.