Kirsten Hildebrand/Nelson Star
A North Shore family spent the wee hours of Saturday morning trapped inside an upstairs bedroom, “unable to escape” while a black bear roamed the downstairs of their home.
The terrifying ordeal began at 4 a.m. when the family, living in the Redfish/Balfour area was alerted that something was amiss.
“I woke up and I heard some rustling outside,” said the woman who asked not to be named. “I originally thought it was raccoons and wasn’t going to get up. But I decided to look out my window and a few minutes later, he was in my house. I’ve never been so scared.”
The bear entered the home through the garage and doorway into the basement.
“It all happened very quickly. I called downstairs thinking it was my husband getting ready for work. But I realized it was the bear inside my house. He had pushed on the bottom of the door, basically bent the door so it popped off the hinge. He was inside the house going through the garbage,” she told the Star.
With the bear downstairs from the kitchen, she grabbed the phone and called 911. No door separated the animal from the main living area of the house, bedroom area and two children needing their mom’s protection.
“I am in panic mode and got the kids all into our room… we huddled and kept quiet,” she said. “I have a 10-year-old and a baby and everyone was pretty scared at this point. We weren’t completely safe and with the door closed we couldn’t tell what’s going on.”
The 911 dispatcher forwarded the family’s call to the local conservation officer. Meanwhile, her husband worked to prop the upstairs door open and put the kitchen garbage and compost outside on their deck hoping to lure the bear out of the home.
He barricaded the top of the basement stairs with a dishwasher and then joined his family secured in the bedroom.
“The scariest thing was when I stayed with the kids and the lady on the phone. I didn’t have contact with my husband… He was trying to see if he could save the day,” she said.
The bear was in their home for nearly an hour and a half.
“I expected we would have the bear come upstairs at any point because the kitchen is there, right? There’s a full fridge, a pantry, it smells really delicious,” said the woman.
When the conservation officer arrived he opened a downstairs door, but the bear chose a different route out of the home. After coming part way upstairs toward the kitchen, it turned to see the light of day starting to break through a stairway window.
“There was a loud explosion and it was my glass window busting open,” she said. “It ran out that window and the conservation officer shot it while it was escaping.”
“It was pretty intense. It was like, holy crap, when does a bear come into your house?
“Thankfully, he [the conservation officer] saved the day.”
The family is fully aware that mitigating bear encounters comes with rural life. In the fall of 2011, the family had a bear break into their garage and “after that scare” have been diligent about ensuring attractants were properly dealt with. Compost is kept in kitchen and birdfeeders are nowhere to be found.
They have a sturdy steel door for their garage on order. In the meantime their garbage was stored inside the home — downstairs.
The family has suspicions that the bear was the same one who broke into their garage two falls ago. They find it strange, however, that the bear was so aggressive outside the pre-winter feeding season.
When a bear last caused trouble for the family, it got spooked while inside their garage and “literally tore their garage apart.”
“So we thought if we left the bear alone, hopefully he would just stay there and be happy or find a way out,” she said. “The last time, the bear crapped all over and went ballistic.”
The family considers themselves lucky that no one was hurt and damage was limited to the door and window the bear used to enter and leave the home. Garbage strewn about was easy enough to clean up.
“Because we didn’t scare him, he didn’t get into defensive mode inside our house. Who knows what would have happened.”
The woman says the broken window was slated for replacement.