Bear gets a handle on opening car doors
A light-pawed bear in the United States unlocked a car and hopped in to forage for food.
William Hefner and his new wife Sara Baker were driving back from their honeymoon in Tennessee when they saw a bear nosing around a car before unlocking it with ease.
"He walked up to the car and opened it like he owned it – hopped right in," Hefner told The Guardian. "He seemed like he knew what he was doing … It was a shock, it was hard to believe."
"But after your nerves calm down and you realise the animal isn't gonna maul you, it was kinda neat, kinda cool to see that."
The bear's behaviour impressed Hefner and Baker.
"I was like, wow, they really do solve problems," Baker said.
Neither were scared, but they now make sure to lock their car doors.
"I like the local bears in general," she said. "I mean, I think they [just] do their thing – as long as people are't stupid like me and leave unlocked car doors full of dog kibble," she said.
It may have been a first for the Hefners, but dozens of such encounters have been filmed an uploaded to YouTube.
California woman Katie Baker was surprised to see a bear open the rear door of her Toyota Rav4, climb inside and eat a bag of dog food that had been sitting inside.
"He had opened the door without scratching it, there wasn't even a mark," she said.
Break-ins by bears are all too common in the US, but because the animals have learned to operate door handles, bear damage to vehicles in the US has declined rapidly in the past 15 years.
In 1997, bears caused more than half a million dollars in damage, breaking into 600 cars, according to the New York Times. This had fallen to between 100 and 300 a year between 2004 and 2011, down to 23 in 2011, 34 in 2012 and 10 in 2013.
Kirsten Leon, an expert in animal-human interaction at the national parks service, says opening car doors is the latest in long line of adaptations by bears to the presence humans.
"They learn very quickly, if there's a reward, how to get that," she said.
Bears have been shown to be capable of using rudimentary tools and moving tree stumps in order to reach donuts hanging from high trees, a 2014 Canadian has shown.