One afternoon during the preparations for our trip, Chris and I sat in our van with all the doors and windows open. We were talking about our forthcoming trip when Chris casually said, “Oh, there is a bear.”
“Really, a bear? Where? Over by the embankment?” I asked.
Chris didn’t answer, instead he looked over my head. I turned around and right in front of the door a BIG shaggy brown animal (and not the neighbor’s dog) lumbered by. I could have reached out and touched him. I didn’t know what to do, shut the doors, escape out the other side – scream?
We were both too surprised and curious to move. In our semi-paralyzed state, we scrutinized the bear as he passed by the van. He did not show any interest in the two humans inside who were certainly interested in him! His brownish golden coat looked scruffy – like he had rolled down the embankment or had just woken up from a long sleep.
Pinned to his movements, we watched him amble up the front steps to our house. Egads!
“Sure hope we closed the door,” we both said in shrill unison.
When the bear walked down the steps, we were thankful the house did not become a bear café. We had heard stories about bears entering homes and having a jolly time raiding the fridge.
Without the promise of munchies the bear moved along, passed between our house and the neighbors, then sauntered out of view.
Based on our description, we later learned from a local man the bear was likely three to five years old. Bears did not come to the San Bernardino Mountains on their own – they were relocated in the 1930’s from Yosemite National Park as a tourist attraction. Although called black bears, their coats range in color from cinnamon, honey brown, dark brown or black.
Bears have learned to associate human smells with food and once they have found a place for an easy meal they often return. Last year we found cans in our yard that had rolled away from a neighbor’s garbage – only a bear could have ripped those cans into mangled shreds. Bears like our food but they may not like us if we get in their way!
And a bear tip – told to us by an elderly gentlemen who seemed to know what he was talking about – “If you are camping in bear country, spray ammonia around your van, bears don’t like it, that’ll keep ‘em away.”
Update: July 29, 2012
I walked up the main road that ends in a state park. On my way there a woman stopped her car next to me and said, “Be careful, there is a bear close by, I saw him two houses up. See, I took this video.”
She pulled out her phone and sure enough, I saw the backside of a bear moving between a house and a red truck. I wondered if the bear was our friend, thanked her for her warning and kept walking but did not see the bear.
At the park, I told the ranger about the bear sighting. He said, “Oh yeah, he’s been coming here everyday. He’s really mellow.”
Yep I thought, must be the same bear that visited us – no problem, just don’t get between him and a can of tuna!