Published since 1946
New Black Bear-Resistant Container and Toxicant Delivery Device Testing Program
Unsecured garbage and other other attractants is a leading cause of preventable bear mortality in North America. The last two decades have seen a proliferation of bear-resistant garbage containers, garbage can enclosures, backpacking canisters, coolers, food storage lockers, and other products to secure potential bear attractants. The Wildlife Management Institute is working with partners to test outdoor products with captive black bears to certify that they are bear-resistant.
Information about the effectiveness of products used to deter grizzly bears has been available through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) through a program that tests bear-resistant products with captive grizzly bears in West Yellowstone, Montana. The IGBC has been testing products for almost 20 years, and information from testing has been used as a basis for selecting products intended to deter black bears as well as grizzly bears. People speculated that a product that was able to deter a grizzly bear should be adequate for deterring black bears. The problem is that nobody really knows if there are differences in the way grizzly bears and black bears access bear-resistant products.
A lack of information regarding effectiveness of IGBC-certified products when used in areas with primarily black bears frequently resulted in less robust, and less expensive, products being used without being tested by live bears. In response, the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) worked with the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) to launch a new program in the fall of 2022 to test bear-resistant products with captive black bears. The new program also includes a field testing component to test devices designed to deliver toxicant to feral hogs. Since the toxicants are lethal to any species that ingests them, testing these devices is critical. Field testing toxicant delivery devices helps prevent unintentional mortality of black bears and other non-target species.
Captive black bear testing currently occurs at three zoos - the Brevard Zoo in Florida, the Western North Carolina Nature Center, and the Oklahoma City Zoo. All three facilities conducted testing last fall and testing of two garbage cans and one backpacking canister was completed. Testing of a third garbage can was started but not completed by the end of the testing season. The 2023 testing season officially started April 1st, and so far two garbage cans have been tested.
Captive Bear Product Testing
Captive bear product testing begins with baiting of test products with a variety of foods that the captive black bears find especially appealing. Baited products are then placed into the bear enclosure, and one or more black bears are let into the enclosure. Products that are able to sustain at least 60 minutes of rolling, chewing, and bouncing by the bears, and remain functional, are considered to pass the captive bear test. More specifically, products that pass meet SEAFWA’s minimum standards and are considered to be black bear-resistant.
It is important to note that almost nothing is “bearproof.” Given enough time, black bears can chew a hole into most plastic products or figure out latches or weak areas on metal products. Therefore, the goal of product testing is to find products that can deter black bears long enough that they move on to easier (and hopefully natural) food sources.
Products that pass the WMI captive bear test are assigned a unique number and will be added to WMI's Black Bear-Resistant Products Testing website. Manufacturers are instructed to include the WMI logo and product ID number to the outside of their product(s) so that consumers can easily identify products that have passed the captive black bear test.
Wild Bear TDD Testing
Wild bear testing of toxicant delivery devices (TDD’s) is now operational, however no TDD’s have been submitted for testing as of this writing. The WMI is involved in discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding status of registration of possible toxicants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and future testing of TDD’s by WMI.