By Debra Moore
Plumas County residents might want to rethink which windows they leave open to let in the cool night air.
It’s been a few years, but I remember when my parents had a nocturnal visit from a bear in their Graeagle home. Mom heard something in the kitchen and woke my dad who grabbed his gun, expecting to encounter a prowler. He did — a bear with a loaf of bread in his mouth. Not sure who was more startled, but the bear went down the hallway and back through the bedroom window he had originally entered.
And this week I learned of an encounter that Jim and Gloria Boland had in their Alder Street home in Quincy. Both were awakened around 5:30 a.m. by clanking noises. They originally thought it was a neighbor getting ready to leave for work, then realized the sound was coming from their kitchen. They opened the kitchen door and turned on the light to find that their silverware drawer had been yanked out and a bear was rummaging through their bread drawer. Both hollered at the bear, that initially took a few steps away from its entry point, but eventually turned and went back out the kitchen window; the screen had been torn away.
Fish and Wildlife experts warn people that if they encounter a bear in their home, not to place themselves between the bear and the way it gained entry. That is a dangerous situation. Anyone with an ongoing problem or questions can call the regional office of the California Fish & Wildlife Department at 916-358-2900. In an emergency situation, residents can call 911.
Asked if they would be doing anything different in the wake of the bear’s visit, Jim said, “We aren’t leaving that window open.” Jim said that their property has always provided a “thoroughfare for bears” that make their way back and forth from the mountain behind his home, but this is the first time that one has entered the residence.
Jim said that back in January, he and Gloria opened their sliding glass door to let in some cool air, leaving the screen door closed. “This little bear cub walked across the deck and put its paws up on the door looking in,” Jim said. They also were able to shoo the bear away in that instance.
Many Plumas County residents have recent tales of bear sightings and encounters. There are weekly calls logged in the Sheriff’s Blotter of residents with bear problems, including bears accessing vehicles’ interiors and causing damage. What can people do to minimize these encounters? The following information is provided by the Humane Society:
Bears have acute eyesight and hearing. Their sense of smell is seven times greater than a bloodhound’s. They have a keen ability to detect pet food, garbage, barbecue grills and bird feeders—and once they locate a food source, they remember where it is.
Bears are normally wary of people, but if a bear finds food without getting frightened away, he may come back for more. Each time this happens, he can become less fearful—and this habituation can lead to problems. Conflicts can heighten during hyperphagia, a feeding frenzy in late summer and fall in which bears bulk up for hibernation, gaining 3-4 pounds and consuming 20,000 calories a day.
Bears who lose their fear of people are called “nuisance bears.” These are most often subadult males—young bears who have just dispersed from their mothers and are still learning how to obtain food—and mothers with young cubs.
If you see a black bear in your yard, don’t fear the worst. A youngster may simply be passing through in search of a home of his own. Or an adult may be checking out an enticing smell or interesting sound. Usually when he finds out there are people around, he’ll head for the hills, never to be seen again. (Though that has not been the case recently in Plumas County.)
If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and remember that the bear is likely more scared of you than you are of him. Attacks by black bears on people are very rare and most black bears can be easily scared away with the following approach:
- Stand and face the bear directly. Never run away from or approach him.
- Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms or, better yet, a coat.
- Make as much noise as possible by yelling, banging pots and pans or using other noisemaking devices.
- If the bear approaches and you have bear spray, spray the bear as he approaches.
- In the very rare case that a black bear does attack you, fight back (don’t play dead).
- After the bear leaves, remove whatever attracted him to the location (barbecue grill, bird feeder, pet food or garbage).