WEST YELLOWSTONE — Bo the grizzly bear was stirring up quite a bit of trouble in and around the community of West Yellowstone last summer - getting into garbage cans and truck beds, wandering the Rainbow Point Campground, and even climbing on top of an occupied vehicle.
State and federal bear management personnel decided that Bo could not remain in the wild, and in July 2020, Bo found a new home - and a "job" - at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.
Tut Fuentevilla, a naturalist at the center, explained, “We heard about Bo getting into that campground and we knew that the outcome was likely to not be good. A year later, he’s adjusted very, very well.”
“Bo has been helping us test what we call bear-resistant containers, and these are products that are designed to be difficult for bears to get into,” said Fuentevilla. “By using them properly, people can really deny wild bears the opportunities to learn the kinds of lessons that got Bo and the other bears that live here into trouble.”
Whether it’s a cooler or a dumpster - even the big ones you see in Yellowstone National Park - it’s Bo’s job to crack them.
“That’s hard. It’s hard to design a container that humans can use effectively but bears cannot,” said Fuentevilla.
The Discovery Center website explains:
The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center cooperates with state and federal agencies in the testing of bear-resistant food and garbage storage containers. Bears that learn to associate people with food often become dangerous and are ultimately killed or placed in captivity. Keeping bears out of human food and garbage is the best way to ensure their survival in the wild.
The testing procedures start with the manufacturer bringing their product to the GWDC. Then, it is placed in the bear habitat and baited with especially enticing foods. After that, the bears must try to get into the container for 60 minutes for it to be considered tested. If they are unable to open the container or obtain food from it, the container passes as “bear-resistant” and receives certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC).
But it's not all work and no play for Bo. Fuentevilla says Bo gets to live as naturally as possible.
“Getting to see him have fun out there, getting to see him play, getting to see him explore new things, it’s like you are watching an animal that has thoughts of its own, has some feelings, and we can’t perfectly understand them. But it’s great to be able to see that, see that life ahead of him,” said Fuentevilla.