Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Smarter-than-average-bear breaks into my car

It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke: “Why did the bear break into the car? To get to the chocolate chip cookies.”

Bad Bear is back, and this time he broke into my car. The black bear yearling who roams our small mountain evidently read the poster stashed in the back that said “Fresh cookies” and decided to help himself.

He’s gotta be related to Yogi Bear of “Jellystone Park” picnic basket fame.

Bad Bear shows his fondness for hummingbird nectar in our front yard at twilight last September.
Bad Bear shows his fondness for hummingbird nectar in our front yard at twilight last September.

My husband and I were sleeping peacefully in the early morning hours of April 1 – that’s right, it was April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke – when the bear I presume was the 220-pounder I saw chomping on our hummingbird feeder in September checked out the car parked in the carport, 10 feet away from the kitchen.

I guess he was really hungry after his long winter nap and decided to snack on the oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies I had left over from the Salem Farmers’ Market where I sell them on Saturdays. Bears might not have good eyesight, but they have an unbelievably powerful sense of smell.

First, he pawed all over the outside of our Dodge Durango with muddy paws and wet nose prints, trying to figure out the best way to get in. In the process he must have gotten his claws hooked in the door handle to get the door open and slam it up against a carport post. A short-handled shovel in the back seat conveniently fell out and propped the door open for him.

What would have happened if the door had swung closed behind him, trapping him in the car? I shudder to picture that.

Judging from the baskets and assorted “stuff” he pulled out, Bad Bear clumbered over the rear seat, snagging claw holes in the upholstery, slashing a couple of slits in my Hillcats baseball jacket and leaving bear hair and sycamore ball seeds on the ceiling. He snarfed the cookies out of the cookie jars and snatched the zippered, insulated casserole carrier I use to keep cookies soft.

Then he must have sat down on the walk to gobble up the individually bagged cookies – chocolate chip seemed to be his favorite – tossed the bags and carried the pic-a-nic basket, uh, casserole carrier about 300 feet into the woods. He unzipped it part way – no lie, unzipped it! – and finished off his picnic with two loaves of my homemade sourdough bread. I appreciated that he left the teal green carrier next to a large, old white oak tree where I could spot it.

After I took pictures and got over my initial outrage, I called our automobile insurance company. To their credit, neither of the representatives I talked with laughed. It was, after all, April Fool’s Day and I expected they might not believe me.

You know how insurance companies are, though: one of the first questions was, “How did you know it was a bear?”

“Well, the muddy paw prints up to the roof of the car and the bear hair inside were a real giveaway,” I responded.

And the standard question: “Was the car locked?” Nope, but how much worse would the damage have been if it were?

I got adamant when the representative told me she was going to list it as “collision with animal.” “The car wasn’t moving!” I told her, again. “It was parked in the carport next to the house.” After a consultation off line, she decided the potential claim would go under comprehensive coverage.

Mike Wilson, the senior damage appraiser who was speedily dispatched the same day from Christiansburg, didn’t laugh, either; the only reference to bear damage in his report was something like: “a few bear hairs were visible.” By then, I’d driven with the windows open to clear out the bear smell reminiscent of wet, muddy dog.

I’m not sure the chore of having the seat upholstery replaced and the crease in the door fixed is worthwhile;

I’ve got to check out body repair and seat upholstery places first. I’m still debating.

So here’s the question: how to keep Bad Bear from coming back for more snacks? Of course, I won’t leave cookies in the car. But next time, will he break into the kitchen while I’m baking them?


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  • The latest funny question from our insurance company, which asked for “a few more details about the bear who ravaged your car,” was, “Do any of your neighbors own a bear?” They don’t.

  • You have a way of making a upsetting experience into a humors interesting story.The funny part about the insurance company adjuster asking do your neighbors own a bear,(so that they could get their money back from the responsible party) is just over the top. It’s obvious that this claim is vandalism and malicious mischief. Go ahead and get the door, the seat, the smell all fixed and anything else caused by the incident as it is all part of the lost they will pay after the comprehensive deductible. Insurance carriers haven’t been known to hand out brownie points for items not claimed on a loss.

  • AMAZING STORY!!! WOW this is scary!!! I really would be afraid it would come into my kitchen while I was baking them… Meg I remember you showing us the picture of a bear on your camera when you were working on Brothers story. Do you think it’s the same one?

  • I do believe it’s the same bear. We know that one has a sweet tooth because of the number of times he took down the hummingbird feeder last summer to get to the nectar. I’m not scared – this teenage bear take off when he knows people are around. I’m more peeved that I have to remember to lock my car every night at home – and not leave homemade cookies in it!

    Aside from my having to answer somewhat obvious questions several times, USAA insurance has been great; very professional and quick to respond.

  • Perhaps a more pertinent question the insurance company should ask: Do any of your neighbors have a bear suit and an overwhelming addiciton to fresh cookies?

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