Guys! A bear broke into my house to eat, twice.
As the founder “Eat Like a Bear,” I do believe this is an important moment in our lives and one that deserves thorough reporting.
I get comments all the time from people about how bears eat out of trash cans and what a ridiculous name “Eat Like a Bear” is. We do “ridiculous” around here pretty well but I will say that the name of the community comes from a video I posted on Facebook long before the community was even a twinkle in my eye. It was my response to people telling me that by not eating for 23 hours out of the day that I was starving myself. I pointed out that bears live on fat all winter long and that going without food for 23 hours was hardly record-setting in the animal kingdom. I should have “starved” myself much sooner! (Here’s the whole origin story with that video.)
In any case, for all the nay-sayers who follow me around internet-land pointing out that bears eat out of trashcans, I will say this: An actual wild bear broke into my house, walked through my kitchen and passed by my trash can, my son’s bagels and chips, the pantry, and walked two rooms away to my husband’s office to eat his leftover meal.
In fact, a bear did this not once, but twice. (Yes, there are wild bears here. We live on private land in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument.)
What, pray tell, was that leftover meal?
(Really you can’t make this stuff up.)
My husband’s big reveal is in the video, but guys, the bear ate a RIDICULOUSLY BIG SALAD!
The bear could have rifled through the trash, eaten a bag of chips, or even gotten out some salsa to have with chips. Really, when a bear breaks into your house and has access to your kitchen, the bear has complete free choice of anything it wants. The bear walked through two rooms to my husband’s office to eat his leftover Ridiculously Big Salad.
Local Bear History
To put this “Bear Break In” in context, we have certainly had many bears over the years get up close and personal, here in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument. Typically every late summer we have a bear that has run low on natural foraging options and turns to our chicken feed (or even our chickens in some unfortunate cases).
We’ve installed solar motion sensor lights around the property to give the bears a bit of a start. The light will flash on and they will typically run off, off to a neighbor’s property (someone who hasn’t discovered the motion lights or a bear horn or a shot gun). There typically is always a neighbor less prepared than we are and it’s one of those cases of “You don’t have to outrun the bear.” We just have to have more bear deterrence than a neighbor to keep the bear out of our business and in our neighbor’s business instead. (Sorry to say, neighbor, but all y’all could get some motion lights too.)
A few summers ago a bear actually broke into our neighbor Fernande’s house and rooted through her bar. I don’t know if he ended up with a pint of scotch or whatnot, but I do know he was all bruised and bloodied from breaking through her window and didn’t stay long. That break in got Fernande a special hunting permit to kill the bear. She’s 80+ years old and not a real gun-slinger so the event had all the local cow boy types on call to assist.
The bear had some good sense and took off to live another day.
Some five years earlier, in about 2012, four-year-old Alastair had an important life lesson one early morning in his own bear encounter. For a more complete story, however, you should know a bit about my son Alastair.
From his very early days, Alastair has always been one of those people who you tell to zig and he zags just to test out zagging. He has a sense of adventure that is certainly admirable and one that will serve him well as a grown man, but one that could very well get him killed as a child. I didn’t want to thwart his spirit, but I did hope to keep him alive in his childhood.
One of the problems of having an adventuresome toddler living in the middle of a national forest is that he could literally get eaten by a wild animal, notably a mountain lion. In fact the area on the north side of our property is densely forested and lion habitat.
Had we said to Alastair: “Never, ever step foot on the north side of the property,” Alastair would have been mountain lion dinner years ago. Instead we were strategic: We never mentioned the north side. We didn’t walk towards it or gesture in its direction. We didn’t watch the sunrise across its landscape.
It did not exist from the time he could crawl until the summer he met the bear.
He had been told many times he was not to go outside by himself but remember what I said about “if you tell Alastair to zig, he will zag”? He was “all Alastair” that August morning and went outside by himself. He claimed later that he was looking for his grandma in the garden.
On that early summer morning, young Alastair set outside by himself reportedly to find his grandma in the garden.
On the way to the garden, Alastair saw something extraordinary for a four year old: a black bear picking plums in our orchard. The bear was on its hind legs picking and eating plums. A bear up on its legs is really something to see, all tall and furry. The bear gave Alastair such a start that he ran inside screaming something I couldn’t understand and that admittedly I paid little attention to. He slammed all the doors to the outside, trying to lock them. Who knows what I was doing at the time, likely attending to important activities such as checking Facebook. A screaming kid was “just another early morning” sort of thing. I did not ask him what was going on.
Just a few minutes later, my mom showed up with eyeballs like saucers having come up on the bear from the other direction. On her report, I did what any normal person would do (and I may really be my son’s mother). I headed out to find the bear. Indeed, the bear was there enjoying the plums. My mom had described him as “giant.” The bears do appear a whole lot bigger when they take you by surprise. A “teenage bear” was a more accurate description.
That bear had a great run eating fruit all over our area but its core problem was that it had a taste for our neighbor Charlie’s chickens. Charlie was so close to his chickens that I found him one day with a chicken on his lap in his house. Charlie was drinking a bottle of craft beer and snuggling a chicken on a recliner in his living room. I would later evacuate the chickens in a forest fire, at least the chickens that the bear didn’t eat.
The bear was threatening to break into Charlie’s house as well, at least enough that Charlie also got one of those special permits to put an end to the bear should the bear return.
That was a memorable bear season for me — most of the locals were concerned about the bear, rooting for Charlie and his rifles. I actually spoke with a friend about sedating and relocating the bear to a much higher elevation in the forest. Not being any sort of actual official bear professional, the idea of me sedating and transporting a bear is basically ludicrous. I remember at the time my dad posing questions such as, “You plan to transport the bear in what exactly?” “What if the bear wakes up sooner than you plan?” My dad had some pretty good practical questions.
At some point in my planning, the bear problem disappeared and then rumors swirled about the various community members who may have solved Charlie’s problem without the official use of his permit.
In any case, the bear was the talk of the house and the community, giving Alastair some solid, first-hand experience with wildlife. Just a few weeks later, we found some real religion when we discovered that a mountain lion got stuck in our hammock, right outside our bedroom window one night, apparently prowling for deer. We had been using the hammock at night to view the Perseid Meteor Shower, so the idea of a lion in the hammock hit pretty close.
Seeing a bear close up in real life and then seeing the mountain lion evidence, Alastair learned an important life lesson — there really IS wild life in the forest and some of that wildlife is pretty big and scary.
That’s the fall we began to explore the north side of the property again.
The 2020 Bear
The 2020 bear in question galavants properties throughout this entire canyon, exploring eating possibilities as the natural foraged foods dry up and as it habitually fattens itself for the winter. What has made this bear unusual over all of these years is that it did actually come into our house, twice. It entered through our dining room, adjacent to our kitchen and pantry. It roamed the kitchen and pantry areas only to walk two rooms further into my husband’s office where his left overs waiting, in a giant trough-like bowl.
What can I say?
Eat Like a Bear!
What else can I say? Lock your doors!