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Can Bears Open Doors? (Yes, But it Depends…)

Depending on where you live, it is not uncommon to have wildlife make their way into your home every once in a while. This may be bats roosting in your chimney, or mice in your basement, or the occasional bird flying through an open window.

However, in some parts of the country, you may also have to worry about much larger animals finding a way inside your home. In this article, we’ll be exploring whether or not bears can open doors.

Can bears open doors?

Brown bear in zoo
Brown bear in zoo | image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The simple answer is yes, but it depends. Bears are strong enough to break through windows and probably locked doors, but this is more trouble than it’s worth for bears. But doors that are left unlocked are fair game for bears that are motivated enough to try to get into your home.

Bears have been known to open sliding doors that have been left unlocked, this is relatively easy to do for them as it just requires putting a little bit of pressure on the door and pushing to one side. Unlocked doors with lever like handles are also very easy for bears to open.

Why do bears break into houses?

Bears do not break into people’s homes to devour their family or pets. Black bears and brown bears are omnivorous with most of their diet made up of plant material, so they really are not interested in us.

If a bear breaks into your house, it is most likely because it smells some sort of food in your house that it wants. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and can smell food behind closed doors and windows. If a bear breaks into your house, it will probably make itself right at home and rifle through cabinets, pantries and trash cans.

One bear in Lake Tahoe, California has become an expert in breaking into people’s homes. Hank the tank, they call him, has been recorded breaking into dozens of homes.

Can bears open car doors?

Ford mustang car
Ford mustang car with open door | Image by Mike from Pixabay

Bears can open unlocked car doors with great ease. In fact, in areas where bears have become essentially habituated to finding food in cars like in national or state parks or campgrounds, they may make the rounds and open several car doors in a short span of time.

One bear in Colorado was found to have gotten into and rifled through eight cars in a single night. All car doors were unlocked in this case which made it a quick and easy operation for this bear.

Can bears open door knobs?

Bears lack the dexterity that us humans have to grasp, turn and push open a door with a circular door knob. So it is very unlikely that bears are able to open door knobs. Doors with lever handles are much more at risk of being opened up by unwanted guests.

How do bears know how to open doors?

Bears, like many animals, learn from trial and error. They are very food motivated and if they smell food, they will likely exhaust all options to get to it.

As soon as they get their first reward from breaking into cars or homes, this helps to condition them and this behavior. They learn that if they open these doors, there’s a good chance there’s food inside, and they learn quickly.

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Can a bear smell through a car?

Black bear crossing the road.
Black bear crossing the road.

Yes, bears have an amazing sense of smell. Bears can smell food through a car, cooler, and multiple layers of plastic. Their sense of smell is supposedly seven times as strong as a bloodhound.

If you are camping, putting your food in your car is definitely a better idea than leaving it out or putting it in your tent if there is nowhere else to store it. However, you should be sure that you close the windows and lock the doors before doing so. Once a bear realizes that it has no way to get to the food in your car, it will likely lose interest and look for another car to rummage through.

Can bears open windows?

Sometimes bears will get into homes through windows rather than through the front door. If a bear smells something tasty through a partially cracked window, it will likely have no problem getting in.

Bears are able to open partially open windows with great ease. It is recommended to make sure your windows are closed and latched shut if you live in bear country!

Tips to keep bears from breaking into your home:

If you live in a place where bears are, luckily there are precautions you can take to prevent any unwanted and unexpected visitors in your home. Bears are most often not aggressive, but when caught in a tight situation, like in your kitchen, they may become defensive and dangerous. For this reason (and many others!) it is important to take precautions.

  • Replace lever style door handles with door knobs on exterior doors.

Door knobs are much harder for a bear to open than a lever-style door handle. In fact, most dogs can learn how to open lever style doors, so it is unsurprising that a hungry and motivated bear could do the same.

  • Close and lock doors and windows at night and when you are not home

This may sound like a no brainer, but this is how most bears get in! Most bears will stay away if they can hear people inside the house, but may be more likely to break in if they think nobody is at home.

  • Trim trees that could provide access to upper story windows or decks

Bears are great climbers and if they have a way in, even if that way requires climbing a tree, they will use it if motivated enough.