A lot of bears are smarter than the average bear. But there is one bear in the Adirondacks that is smarter than all those above-average bears.
Yellow-Yellow, as she’s called, apparently is the only bear in the country that has figured out how to open the latest canisters made by Bear Vault.
Since August 2005, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has required campers in the eastern High Peaks to store food, garbage, and toiletries in “bear-resistant” canisters. Since then, hikers have occasionally reported that a bear stole food from their Bear Vaults.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said the culprit is a she-bear that ranges from the Johns Brook Valley to Lake Colden. “We know it’s one bear in particular,” he said. “Wherever she isn’t, it hasn’t happened.”
Yellow-Yellow wears a radio collar that enables DEC to track her wanderings. Her nickname comes from the color of her ear tags.
Winchell described Yellow-Yellow as a shy creature that flees people, notwithstanding her taste for their food and her knack for procuring it.
On its Web site, Bear Vault says the bear learned how to open its BV350 model in 2007 by pressing in a tab with its tooth and unscrewing or prying open the lid. As a result, Bear Vault designed a new lid last year (the BV450) that requires the user to push in two tabs sequentially. “Surprisingly, the bear(s) pressed in the first snap with its incisor, rotated the lid and then pressed in the 2nd snap with its incisor and opened the lid,” the company says.
Jamie Hogan, the company’s president, is both frustrated and impressed by Yellow-Yellow’s ingenuity. “If she comes across a Bear Vault, she will open it as quickly as a hiker,” he told the Explorer.
DEC is advising people against using Bear Vaults in the eastern High Peaks. He said there have been no problems with canisters made by other companies, if they are in good condition and used properly.
Despite the wily she-bear, Winchell said the canister program has been a big success. In 2005, DEC received 375 complaints of “negative bear-human interactions” in the High Peaks. Last year, it received only sixty-one. Most of those came from people who weren’t using bear canisters.
Bear Vault plans to test a new lid in the Adirondacks this summer, but Hogan refused to divulge its secret.
Wouldn’t want word to leak out to Yellow-Yellow.