Like my friend and coworker, Tori Seher, I’ve noticed that bears seem to like minivans. Frequently, such perceptions are not true–but it turns out that this one is!

Tori and two other researchers decided to look at the data and they found some interesting things. Not only are minivans the most frequently broken-into vehicles, but they’re also disproportionally broken into. That is, they’re not most frequently broken into because they’re more common. During the two years when they were counting both vehicle types and incidents, minivans made up only 7 % of all vehicles, but 29% of all vehicle breakins. On the other hand, sedans made up 28% of all vehicles but only made up 14% of all breakins. My perception is that SUVs are frequently broken into, and, indeed, SUVs were the second most frequently broken-into vehicles (but that mostly reflects their popularity).

So, why are minivans so frequently broken into? I think it’s two things: they’re easy to get into (bears get into a lot of minivans by simply popping the window out–often causing little damage to the glass or the frame–as compared to other vehicles, in which they often have to bend the door frame down). The other thing is that minivans may be more likely to carry children, who are more likely to spill food and drinks–which would also attract bears. (These are two of the hypotheses put forth in the study.)

If you have a minivan, should you worry during your Yosemite visit? No–as long as you remove all your food, drinks, toiletries, trash, and any other scented items from your car. After all, only 9% of the minivans broken into definitely were food-free. (Bears aren’t perfect.) So, if your car is clean, there’s a slim chance a bear will break into it.

You can read the article in the Journal of Mammalogy.

White 60 exiting an SUV in front of me, July 2007. (NPS Photo by Tammy Evans)