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Discovery Center helps companies create bear-resistant containers

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WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. - Coolers and trash can companies are utilizing the bears at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to create bear-resistant containers.

As bears work to put on a few pounds before hibernation they've become more ambitious when it comes to searching for food this winter by searching in cars and yards.

Some bears are putting their bad habits to good use in the only program of its kind in North America, according to container testing coordinator Randy Gravatt.

Gravatt told NBC Montana companies across the country pay to send their coolers and trash cans to the center for testing. The grizzlies have 60 minutes to try and open them to get to the food that's inside, including sardines, fish, meat and peanut butter, said Gravatt. He told NBC Montana the testing process can last anywhere from one day to several.

If the grizzlies cannot tear through three layers of the cooler or open the trash can more than an inch and a half, the container becomes certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

If the bears are able to tear them open it's back to the drawing board. Gravatt told NBC Montana if containers fail some companies will use the results to create a new design and try again.

Gravatt said the bears at the Discovery Center have broken into coolers or garbage cans or created conflict with humans while in the wild.

"A fed bear is a dead bear," Gravatt said. "So if a bear gets into that unnatural, unsecured food they're going to get conditioned to that."

Rather than being euthanized, Gravatt said the bears are moved to the center, where they're able to help with testing.

Gravatt told NBC Montana since the center first opened 13 years ago the success rate for companies has improved from 10 percent to 65 percent.

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