Ah, black bear season. A time when unlocked vehicles become scratching posts for these curious and forever-hungry omnivores.
Such is the case for one unlucky vehicle owner in the Blue Ridge Parkway area. “Officers were dispatched to a vehicle unlock this morning in Hilltop,” Blue Ridge Public Safety stated Saturday on their Facebook page. “Once they arrived, they found the vehicle locked with a bear inside.”
Thankfully, the black bear emerged completely unharmed. But photos taken after the fact show what remains of the vehicle’s interior. And it’s not much. “Needless to say Bear -1 Vehicle -0,” the post continues. You can say that again:
“This is a reminder to keep your vehicle doors locked even if you will be out of it for only a few minutes,” BRPS states. Wise advice, as car break-ins by bruins are a yearly occurrence in black bear country.
Intelligent, inquisitive, and resourceful, American black bears can have a car door handle figured out in a matter of minutes. Typically, their powerful sense of smell picks up on a scent coming from within the vehicle. This can be anything from the usual food suspects, to deodorant, toothpaste, or even a car air freshener.
And if that car door shuts behind said black bear, then all hell breaks loose as the wild animal tries to free itself. It’s a recipe for shredded interior, to say the least, as BRPS’s photos show.
Live in Black Bear Country? Always Lock Your Car Doors
Bear break-ins are frequent during black bear season, too; a time when these bruins are out foraging in full force during plentiful summer months. Midsummer, specifically, sees a large uptick in black bear encounters within U.S. National Parks across America.
“June and early-to-mid August are the two real big peaks in human-bear conflicts,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park‘s Lead Wildlife Biologist, Bill Stiver, told me this spring for our National Parks Journal.
“People need to really be on their toes in June,” Stiver added. “June is our most challenging moth of the year by far. We take a deep breath at the end of that month.”
Come July, “Summer foods, like ripened berries, become available and the bears’ focus switches to mating season. Their mating season lasts through July and August,” he continues. And at times like the present when August rolls in, conflicts begin to spike in the Smokies (which includes Blue Ridge Parkway) again “as summer food sources start to fade out, and the bears’ fall foods – like acorns – aren’t available yet,” he says.
Unfortunately for both us humans and wild black bears, the easiest food sources are byproducts of our daily lives. Trash cans, dumpsters, campgrounds, backpacks, picnic areas, and – you guessed it – unlocked cars – pose a hazard to bears. Literally anything with a strong scent not stored in a bear-proof location becomes an attractant.
To learn more about attractants, and how to prevent black bear break-ins where you live, see the full interview with GRSM’s Bill Stiver here.