Video: Help, Bears Can Open Doors Like People

"A bear's nose is seven times better than a hound dog's."

The internet loves bears. Whether fawning over a faceoff of the fattest bears in Alaska or rooting for a baby bear sliding down a snowy slope, we can’t look away from the magnificent creatures. Sometimes, as the California Highway Patrol can confirm, they come straight to us.

A video captured by the CHP captured a bear taking a night stroll into the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility in Truckee, California, on November 17. Posted on Facebook the next day, the video nabbed 166,000 views and almost 2,000 shares — a higher-quality version posted on November 24 piled on another 111,000 views and 1,000 shares.

With the air of a human opening the fridge for a midnight snack, the bear took a moment to balance on two legs and use its then-free right paw to casually open the door to the facility before dropping back on all fours. During this excursion, which happened around 10:30 p.m., the bear passed by a vending machine, sniffed around for snacks, and left, empty-pawed. Two armed officers followed the bear out.

bear revisits california highway patrol
Round 2, on November 21

Following crime show playbooks to a T, the bear returned to the scene of the crime a few days later, on November 21. This time, the fearless fellow climbed on a dumpster of the nearly-empty parking lot, attempting to access potential goodies inside.

Living in the Land of Milk and Honey and Bears

Although this incident was the station’s first bear encounter at the facility, bear encounters aren’t uncommon in Truckee-Lake Tahoe area. California’s black bear population has only grown since the 1990s, swelling from between 10,000 and 15,000 in 1992 to an estimated 35,000 in 2016.

bear population graph
California classified black bears as game animals since 1948, but has tightened hunting laws since then.

Given this population growth, staying in bear country requires extra precautions. Marc Kenyon, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s human-wildlife conflict expert, explains just how important it is to stash your snacks properly.

“A bear’s nose is seven times better than a hound dog’s, and it will lead a bear to anything that is edible or smelly,” Kenyon told the Sierra Sun in 2016. “Bears can smell meat drippings on your barbecue, dog food on your porch and candy in your sleeping bag.”

Guard Your Food

To keep your hard-earned food from the bears, the town of Truckee has some important pointers. In town, use public trash receptacles and dumpsters, making sure they’re latched and locked at all times. On its website, the town advises against storing any food in your car or tent, when camping. Even scented products like suntan lotion, toothpaste, or soap could attract a nearby bear. Although slinging food over a tree branch is the traditional storage method, bear canisters, designed so that bears can’t easily fit their mouths around the jars, provide a more convenient solution — most of the time.

Face-to-Face

If you do encounter a bear, don’t run. The bears, which can weigh up to 500 pounds, can come barreling your way at 35 miles per hour. Instead, back away slowly, making eye contact and doing your best to look large as you go. Making loud noises to assert your dominance is encouraged.

Most importantly, never feed a bear. The saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” because once they’re hooked on human food, they lose their fear of people, associating them with food and becoming dangerously bold. Park rangers are then often forced to kill the bear to prevent future attacks.

Sharing is caring in most cases, but not this one. But feel free to keep admiring these big boys from the safe view of the internet.