don’t feed the god damn bears

My wife and I were watching Walking Dead the other night when we heard honking outside on our extremely quiet rural street. I went outside and saw the last thing any vehicle owner wants to lay eyes on: your vehicle rocking about, steamed up windows, the horn honking and lights flashing.

There was a bear in the Subaru.

Worse, the door had shut on it after it got in so now the bear was (apparently) trying to get out. Generally speaking the American black bear is docile. The thing you don’t want to do is get in between a bear and wherever it is trying to go. In this case the car was standing in the way of it getting outside. Like every good Internet citizen, I grabbed my phone and started recording.

The vehicle was totalled: over $4,000 in damage to the interior as the bear ripped off pretty much everything except the steering column. It got out by busting the driver’s side window out.

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Bear: 1, Subaru: 0

There was no food in the car that we know of; certainly nothing visible to the naked eye. The vehicle was closed but not locked and of course it should have been and normally was. It’s actually made us wonder how many times bears have tried to get in, thwarted by a locked door. This rather massive bear managed to open the car, go inside, the door shut on it, and then it proceeded to destroy our trusty little Subaru.

Why the bears of Mammoth roam through the town is straight forward: it’s an easy meal. Finding food in nature is a huge pain in the ass compared to hopping in your car and stealing that half open Cliff bar in your center console.

The bears are everywhere here. Friends have had them in their cars, kitchens, yards, and patios. You can go years without seeing them and then two days in a row you’ll be smelling bear piss on your favorite outdoor chair followed by watching one paw at your neighbor’s door.

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Yesterday, Sierra Star golf course. Sorry for the non-high-res shot, but I’m not getting any closer.

Mammoth does a lot to try to live in balance with the bears, the largest campaign of which is pasted on nearly every local’s car: Don’t Feed Our Bears. Steve Searles (aka The Bear Whisperer) is an (the?) official wildlife officer for Mammoth and his website is worth checking out.

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Easily the most popular person in Mammoth Lakes. True story: I saw several Steve costumes during Halloween.

And driving into town today I can see why Steve has a fulltime job and why bears roam my neighborhood looking to steal my picnic basket. “Don’t feed the bears” isn’t so much about walking up to them with a candy bar, it’s about making food easily available to them.

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Trash on the road, bags ripped open. Great.

The culprit of the mess above was easy to spot. Less than 20 feet away was a dumpster cracked open: it’s animal-resistant lock dangling down like a lazy icle. The sticker with the bear on it staring at you, me, and the asshat who didn’t lock his dumpster up is the real sad part.

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Thanks a lot, jerk face.

Whether you’re visiting or living in Mammoth, please treat the bears seriously. They are always on the prowl. And while some nights you could leave a prime rib dinner on your patio and nothing would happen, tomorrow night a bear might rip through your screen door, go into the kitchen, and start chowing down on whatever it can get its paws on.

And it will take a dump in your place too.

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