It wasn’t a record-setting time, but the two Yukon grizzly bears at the BC Wildlife Park in east Kamloops were eating lunch in short order on Wednesday.
Each year at the park, WildSafe BC tests bear-bin products to determine just how impervious they really are to a bruin.
No bin is considered to be fully bear-proof, so in order to be certified bear-resistant through WildSafe’s program, this year’s plastic compost bin — equipped with eight locks on the lid — needed to withstand the bears’ efforts for an hour without any food shaking loose.
Zookeeper Danielle Rogers loaded the bins with items such as dog food, fruits, meat and fish, as well as a few additional incentives, including peanut butter and jam.
“Basically, what we’ve got out there is their regular diet and the additional [incentives] would be stuff we use to attract them over to it,” Rogers said, noting that after many tests, the bears can lose interest.
But there was plenty of interest in this bin.
The 270-kilogram (600-pound) Knute and his 160-kilogram (350-pound) sister Dawson came running over to check it out.
The grizzlies started off by licking some of the peanut butter smeared around the locks, which led them to roll the composter, nibbling and clawing at it.
Knute seemed to lose interest quickly, but a persistent Dawson kept at it, rolling the bin around their enclosure.
When Knute tried to tag back in, Dawson was quick to push him away and even jumped on top of the bin when he got too close.
Nearing the 30-minute mark, a stealthy Knute managed to sneak back on the job. After more rolling, and with some of the latches having already been broken off, he pulled away one final latch with his teeth and peeled the lid back.
A cheer rang out from the crowd that had gathered and the two bears began to feast after about a half-hour on the job.
The record for the bears is well under the minute mark, WildSafe BC provincial co-ordinator Frank Ritcey told KTW.
Having been opened after just 30 minutes, the bin failed to pass the test, so it will go back to the manufacturer, which will need to strengthen the weak points.
"They'll redesign it, send it back and we'll re-test it," Ritcey said, noting the bins seldom pass the bear test on the first try.
"We've had as many as three tests to get a product through," he said.
But Ritcey said he was impressed with how well this bin fared.
"One of the things that I learned from the test is that the plastic and the design of the bin itself is very rigid. The bears were not able to compress that at all," he said, noting the latches were the Achilles heel.
"That's what they'll have to redesign, is how that latching system works, but the integrity of the walls and the lid were intact," he said.
WildSafe BCs testing program is run in association with the North American Testing of Bear Resistant Products every year at the BC Wildlife Park. Containers that last an hour of contact time receive official certification and are posted on the WildSafe BC website.
"The BC Wildlife Park here is an incredibly valuable resource for the province," Ritcey said. "Without a testing program like this, people wouldn't know what a bear-resistant bin really is. You'll find a lot of products that are marked as being wildlife resistant and bear resistant and they're really not."
Most of B.C. is bear country and most residents would benefit from having certified bear-resistant garbage cans and composter, Ritcey said.
The bin tests show just how easy it is for bears to break into a container, Rogers said, noting some people think a bungee cord will be enough to keep them out.
“That kind of thing doesn’t work,” she said. “If you can see that a unit has a full locking system on it and a bear can still get it open, then you realize that when you’re dealing with your curbside container, just sticking a bungee cord on there isn’t going to work.”