Grizzly bears in Yellowstone put trash cans and coolers to the test

Bear-resistant coolers

YELLOWSTONE, Mt. -- This time of year, bears are hungry and foraging for food just about anywhere they can find it.

And one particular set of bears are some of the best in the business when it comes to getting the goods, reports CBS News' Carter Evans.

Randy Gravatt CBS News

Randy Gravatt knows exactly what a bear wants. It's his job to tempt bears to break into coolers and garbage cans at the non-profit Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in Yellowstone National Park so manufacturers can make them even stronger -- and save bears' lives.

"There's a saying out there: 'a fed bear is a dead bear,'" Gravatt said.

"Once they get a taste for it, they'll keep coming back?" Evans asked.

"They will," Gravatt said.

And that's bad news for the bears because when they get too close to people, they're euthanized or relocated.

There are eight "resident" grizzlies that were relocated to the Discovery Center, including 350-pound Spirit.

Spirit tries to pop open a cooler CBS News

For about $500, companies can find out if their containers are truly bear-resistant, to the delight of park visitors like Vickey Sumner.

"He just kept managing to move that thing around until he just like cracked it right open," she said.

"Now you know which cooler you might bring with you?" Evans asked.

Coram used the "CPR method" to pop open a trash bin CBS News

She and others watched a 600-pound bear named Coram use the tried and true "CPR method" -- pumping the object repeatedly with his front legs -- to pop the top on a trash bin.

The containers that survive a 60-minute mauling can be sold as bear-resistant, but not all are successful. Even a steel trash locker was no match for the bears.

"They ripped the hinges right off," Gravatt said.

The steel trash locker, right, was no match for a grizzly. CBS News

According to Gravatt, when they first started testing, only 10 percent of containers were passing. That number is now around 65 percent.

"The ultimate goal is to benefit the bears out in the wild," he said.

Saving bears, one cooler at a time.