A Bear In My House!

I grabbed the phone, locked myself in a closet and dialed 911. When Officer Donovan answered and asked for my address, I screamed, “There’s a bear inside my house! And I’m alone!”

It began with forgetfulness. I put some eggs on the stove to boil, went downstairs to my office to answer emails, which led me to look up a website which gave me an idea and I started making notes. I smelled something peculiar, like burning plastic, and wondered if it was the computer overheating. A half hour later, I got up to get some water and remembered, the eggs! I raced up the stairs and found the rooms filled with smoke so thick it was hard to see. The eggs had exploded and the pot was a lump of hard black tar.

Cleaning up the mess, I opened all the doors and windows, hoping that cross drafts would carry away the smoke. I opened the garage and the door that led from the garage to the kitchen.

I walked back downstairs, brushed my teeth, sat in the hot tub (outside in the dark!), then started turning out lights and closing windows and doors.

I was heading upstairs when I heard a shuffling noise. One of the neighbors’ dogs must have wandered into the house. Then I froze. That was no dog! It was a bear, dark brown, with his rump to me as he padded down the hall between the living room and kitchen. He was at least four feet high on all fours.

“Get out of here!” I screamed, raced down the stairs and into my bedroom. What should I do? Call a neighbor? It’s 1 in the morning. Then I thought of 911, grabbed the phone and called it for the first time in my life.

Donovan answered, sent out an alert and said he’d stay on the phone with me until officers arrived. I was hyperventilating. “How long will that take?”

“Not long, they’re rolling now,” he said. My cat! I realized she was outside the closet, but each time I opened it and tried to coax her in, she scampered away.

Petrushka, unaware of the bear

Donovan said, “I have one arrival.” One officer was now outside my house but he couldn’t come in alone, he had to wait for backup. Hurry! I thought.

“Can you hear the bear?” Donovan asked.

“No. Maybe he’s gone,” I said.

“The officers will assume he’s in there. Don’t move from the closet. They’ll come in with guns drawn.”

I was starting to calm down; the cavalry had arrived. I could even laugh when Donovan made a funny statement.

“Second arrival,” he said. “Stay where you are, Sara.”

I heard the officers moving around overhead. Then they were outside my bedroom door. I hung up with Donovan and practically fell into their arms. “The bear’s not here,” they said. They had pistols, long rifles strapped to them and enough ammo to flush out a Taliban nest.

The youngest officer said to me, “I don’t do bears. Criminals, bad guys, no problem. But we don’t expect to find bears in residences.” He shook his head and kept repeating, “I don’t do bears.”

For a second I imagined what might have happened if the bear had dallied. Gun shots, blood, ursine diarrhea and the brown behemoth splayed on my hardwood floor.

We went back upstairs and saw that the bear had knocked over the garbage cans in the kitchen and garage and rummaged through them.

“He didn’t stay long,” the young officer said, “or he would have clawed opened the refrigerator. You probably scared him off.”

By now there were four squad cards with lights flashing outside my house. I couldn’t sleep after they all left. Adrenaline was pounding through me.

As it happens, the next morning was my day to spend with Reb Zalman, a rabbi with whom I’m working on a book, “The December Work.”

We’d been talking about the need to reset one’s course in life at key times. When I told him a bear had entered my house the night before, he gave a playful smile. “The bear is a symbol.”

Of what? I asked. Brute strength? Resurrection or reinvention, because it hibernates?

Reb Zalman said his wife was told by Native American women that if you run into a bear, you should expose your breasts and the bear will flee.

As if I would stand there and try that!

Later in the day I had a call from a ranger with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who suggested I buy bear pepper spray called “Counter Assault” that was developed for grizzlies in Alaska.

Or I could get a small boat horn, in case the bear returns. The best thing, he said, is to keep your doors and windows closed and don’t have attractants around, like garbage outside or bird feeders.

He said they could set a trap by my house, but if a bear got caught, he would die. “Think about it,” Rick said. Right. People in Colorado don’t like to kill bears.

Should I order the boat horn or the bear spray?



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51 thoughts on “A Bear In My House!

  1. Rachel Strauss

    Bear Spray! LOL. OMG I pictures this whole event. I remember how freaked out you got with a tiny mouse, so with a bear- wow 🙂 Glad you are safe and that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.

  2. Anonymous

    My parents recounted the incondent to us the next morning! I can't believe a BEAR was in your house!?!?!?! So scary! Glad you are safe and bear free. – Summer

  3. Catherine

    Buy both! I think you acted quite well under pressure! Welcome to Colorado where anything can happen!!1

  4. Anonymous

    I am certain that the bear came to “annouce” a new period of your life with all good power, and bear warmth and fierceness….I do mean this

  5. Cha Cha

    I vote for the boat horn as it is always windy in Colorado,
    and what happens if the bear is UPWIND of you and
    your pepper spray when you need it?

  6. Anonymous

    I had a black bear come into my yard in Oregon. A Native American friend told me the Bear symbolizes the spirit world. It was me connecting to the Spirit world and it manifested in my yard and my dreams. Working with Reb Zalman undoubtedly has you connected UP. Tell him I said “hi”.

  7. Barb

    I'ld go with the horn, pepper spray doesn't last long and the chances of a bear in your house again soon are pretty slim, especially if you watch the food on the stove.

  8. Linda Myers

    When I see a totem energy in the physical I relate it to my physical life and when in spirit to spiritual life, though both are the same but messages have different relationships. To myself, the bear is our own self protection and possibly need to be the caregiver to others although we choose to hibernate parts of our self in the process. I get the snakes rather than the bears, though they are non-aggressive physical or spiritual in nature and powerful messengers of change. The bear could have seen every wall and being in your house as confining and a need to break the barriers and consume, as you that was not his nature or message he chose to bring. I think more so it was telling you to be comfortable just as you are, the bear is your ally rather than your aggressor.

  9. Joey

    Was Ursas Major, The Great Bear, in the sky that night? Bear stands for awakening the power of the unconscious. The seven stars of the Great Bear constellation represent seven rays of Light. Bear totem is a reminder to go within and awaken your power. Shed light on what's been below the surface.
    I think it's amazing that you had a bear in your house, and more amazing that no real harm was done. I guess he just stopped by to remind you how wonderful and powerful you are. If I were you I'd wear a little bear charm around my neck for a while and put a picture of a bear on my wall to remind me of the power of the unconscious. Good luck, Joey

  10. Anonymous

    Great story! And I'm glad no one got hurt! As someone else already mentioned, the spray could blow (or drift if inside the house) back in your face and could be quite painful. If it were me, I'd go for the boat horn (and keep my doors closed.)

  11. Beauregard

    I know the egg fire scenario all too well and now I set an alarm on my cell phone. Eggs are perfect, no smoke alarms and no bears…

  12. DaleElena

    I would vote for the boat horn. Very frightening sound, and least likely to do harm.
    When did this happen? Was it last night after choir rehearsal? If so, maybe he was just coming to give his review!
    Glad your cat is okay.
    BTW- would love to know more about the book you are working on with Reb Zalman.

  13. Anonymous

    Or maybe a bear in the house means the doors were conveniently open when it smelled burnt food.

  14. Marcia Barhydt

    Sara, I so enjoy your posts!
    I vote for both – one beside the eggs (or their remaining spirit) and one beside your computer!

    Thanks for another delightful piece.


  15. Tina

    If you're working with Reb Zalman, “Aging Well is the Best Revenge” has got to be it.

    We just got back from Alaska. Everyone there has more than one bear story. We heard lots of them. You can get the spray but unless it is attached to your body, it will be in a drawer somewhere where you can't find it! Boat horn might be easier to find. What do your neighbors think?

  16. Anna

    Wonderful story, Sara. I'm glad the bear got away (and you, of course!). Have you ever read Marian Engel's novel, Bear? If not, after this experience – and Reb Zalman's breast bearing advice – you should!

  17. Eve

    Re the blog: just plain Sara Davidson; classier.
    Re the bear: mazal tov, you are now a genuine naturalized Boulderite.
    They are big, aren't they?

    When we return I'll tell you the full Athabascan prescription for women meeting bears.

  18. Pastor Heidi

    Heading back to Sudan….different kind of bears… and beautiful people to whom I am devoted.

  19. Dan

    I suggest you move and let the bears who have been a part of the environment for a millennium have back their natural space in other words you are in their space they are not in yours.

  20. Alex

    Thanks for a delightful story, happy ending and all. I would purchase both the boat horn and the pepper spray. Should you use the pepper stray indoors, though, you’ll never get rid of the smell entirely.

    There is a great old gag on this very subject, though it only confounds the attempt to make sensible decisions in such uncomfortable situations.

    In light of the rising frequency of human and grizzly bear conflicts, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the field.

    They advise that outdoorsmen wear noisy little bells on their clothing, so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. They also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear.

    It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear dung. Black bear dung is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear dung is larger, has little bells in it and smells like pepper spray.

  21. Bob

    Great story. I love your articles on Ram Dass and Elizabeth Targ. You are an amazing writer. In terms of the bear, I would get both the bear spray and the boat horn. I think perhaps we all have bears in our closets so to speak. I’m dealing with crazy fighting neighbors in an apartment complex. Spousal abuse seems to be the way people deal with their anger issues. Being arrested or warned by landlords doesn’t seem to phase people. I’ve been there five years. I’ve lived through a seizure, so I am moving on to a new home.

    Good luck to you, and I hope the bear does not come back. I too am a child of the “hippie” generation. I am in my rebellion stage now. A late bloomer I suppose.
    Take care,

  22. Anonymous

    I would vote for the boat horn. Very frightening sound, and least likely to do harm.
    When did this happen? Was it last night after choir rehearsal? If so, maybe he was just coming to give his review!
    Glad your cat is okay.
    BTW- would love to know more about the book you are working on with Reb Zalman.

  23. ferngrower

    Oh how frightening to see a bear inside your house! Look online for Bearicuda trash receptacals. They're bear proof supposedly. Also, look into audible bear protection devices. They alarm you before the bear alarms you. xo

  24. Caroline

    So glad you and your cat are both OK and thank you for sharing the story! Go for the boat horn and a smoke alarm, so you don't have to worry about worse things wandering into your house. (Like the copperheads I've seen in our neighborhood!)

  25. Anonymous

    Your bear incident, since it began with a bout of forgetfulness, reminded me of a delightful tale that’s been circling cyberspace for awhile. I would love to give credit where it’s due. Unfortunately, I can’t find out who authored it. But whoever it was, she (he?) is spot-on…and I definitely relate. Tale follows:


    Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder. Somehow I feel better even though I have it! Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. This is how it manifests:

    I decide to water my garden. As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing. As I start toward the garage, I notice mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table and notice that the can is full. So I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first. But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.

    I take my check book off the table and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Pepsi aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over. The Pepsi is getting warm, and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need water. I put the Pepsi on the counter and discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning. I decide I better put them back on my desk. But first I'm going to water the flowers.

    I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I'll be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs. But first I'll water the flowers.

    I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill. Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

    At the end of the day:

    The car isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter, the flowers don't have enough water, there is still only 1 check in my check book, I can't find the remote, I can't find my glasses, and I don't remember what I did with the car keys. Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day, and I'm really tired.

    I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail. Do me a favor. Forward this message to everyone you know, because I don't remember who I've sent it to. Don't laugh — if this isn't you yet, your day is coming!!

  26. Christine

    Loved the bear story! When animals come into my life, I refer to the books of Ted Andrews, who tells us about the mythological and Native lore of most critters. Here's an excerpt on bears from one of his books, Animal Speaks. Scroll up a bit to get the complete passage. Enjoy!



  27. Olivia

    Wow Girl, What an interesting life you lead. I don't know about baring yourself to a bear, maybe a wolf. I am glad you are writing a new book, look foward to reading it. I've got to say, I love that your stories have so much color. It is never boring.

  28. Joel Rudikoff

    I still remember from what must have been the first day of local reporting class — I was assigned to a police precinct in Little Italy — that a squad car is assigned only to a captain or chief while lesser officers get a mere patrol car. But maybe it's different in Colorado. Anyway, I'm glad that both you and the bear escaped unharmed.

  29. Cynthia Wetzler

    regarding THE BEAR
    buy the horn AND the pepper spray
    even though they befriended goldilocks doesn't mean you want one of them up close and personal. but it is kind of exciting.
    the bear seeks honey or the sweetness of life, it seems, so maybe this was a very sweet omen barging into your house.

  30. Vivian

    Great story! Loved the symbolism the rabbi suggested. I would not expose my breasts ever.

  31. Peggy

    The spray sounds less disruptive to your neighbors, but either is preferable to killing the bear (and I'm in California, not Colorado!). Remember, you're encroaching on HIS territory, not vice versa. Don't be a whiteman in Native American territory!

    And I don't care what you call the new blog, just, for heaven's sake, KEEP WRITING! I love your work!

  32. Vicky

    That was one heck of a funny story. You should thank that bear for the fodder! Maybe that's the sign! And, maybe you should stay away from the horny rabbi!

  33. Beverly Kai

    When it comes to predators that can eat me alive – -and that includes some humans – – I prefer not to look for signs and portents. The threat is very real, not symbolic, and requires real defense. Get both horn and spray.

    Well before his son Harry was even expected, Dave Letterman told of a bear in his Montana house, and showed snapshots. The animal didn't seem interested in the people, but what it could find to eat in the kitchen. It seems to have gotten bored and left.

    With new infant Harry in that house, I hoped they kept garbage outside and all entryways double bolted.

    I am in somewhat of that position now. . . in that high school classmates appear to be hitting on me after 55 years!!! And there are options for future happiness…maybe. So I find myself looking for signs, and indications, and nudges to my subconscious. Should I unbolt my metaphorical door??

    But if I keep this up, it would drive me nuts. I would be looking for a polar bear and a Smoke Monster every time I went up to the North Shore. And wondering what it would mean if they didn't show up.

    I am too old to be crazy, and I think you are too, Sara. Leave it to Steve Martin. A wild and crazy grandmother is a person who is avoided at bus stops. We are now Wise Women.. at least we are regarded as such in Europe.

    I want to enjoy my generative years… and wonder if it would be wise to consider a mate at this late date . . .

    The future is fun to think about. If I live as long as my parents did, I will be around another 15 years…. and that is enough time to start a whole new life project.

    For your next title, Sara, think of something that signifies “Fruitful.' We have seen a lot and have good insight. Time to share. . . . . .

    Bev in Honolulu

  34. "heymarci"

    This is the second bear sighting story I've heard this month. I guess there are a few people in my life who need these kinds of signs!

  35. Mary

    Wow, what a story, Sara! Maybe we should start a club “The Sisterhood of the Midnight Bear Encounters”

    I awoke the other night in my little 2 room cottage in the Sierra foothills and opened the door to catch a breeze. A few minutes later I heard a loud crash and ran to the screen door. There was a bear dining on neighbor garbage fare about 8 feet away from me! I watched him for a moment in my sleepy stupor…and then I clapped. Luckily he ran away and I laid back down wondering why I wasn't feeling fear's adrenaline rush. After many sleepless hours I drifted off and had sooo many bear nightmares. No fear..yeah, right! When I woke up I padded out to the kitchen to heat some water and looked up through the sliding glass door and there he was…I couldn't believe it!.. el oso loping lazily through the meadow on the other side of the yard.

    Hmmm…2 sightings. Someone sent me the Ted Andrews Animal Speak excerpt a few hours later and I have to say a lot of it applied. Life has been rather interesting since then.

    btw I couldn't possibly imagine the terror of having the bear IN my house. I agree with those who said you handled it bravely well considering!

    My landlord last year had a sensor hooked up near the orchard (which was obviously not turned on this season) that sounds like a mountain lion hiss and supposedly is a bear deterrent. I'll find out more about it and let you know. Meanwhile get the horn!

  36. Ilmar

    Quite an adventure you had, you and that bear. Glad everything turned out OK for all concerned including the bear. Personally I would buy the boat horn and keep my doors closed if having to choose an option as pepper spray can make a big mess that is difficult to clean.

    You sure do have a way with words and I liked the imagery of you possibly exposing your breasts to the bear to make him flee… that wouldn’t have worked with me! 🙂

  37. Scott

    We had a bear in our house last year also. It tore through the screens and we had left some windows open. We now keep those windows closed at night.

    Glad you're ok!

  38. Don Meuler

    I'd go for the boat horn. Seems like the spray might just piss him off. The breasts are a no-cost option, although I can't imagine it having the desired effect.

  39. Joanna

    I forwarded your story to a 22-year-old friend of mine, who’s still learning NEVER to leave the kitchen with a burner going. I can totally relate to the process of distraction; one thing leads to another. Fortunately I now have a setup where my computer and kitchen are in the same general space.

    Don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout bears. But I think MY boobs wouldn’t scare one.

  40. Judy

    I lived in the ketchum/sun valley area where the bears frequent people's homes, as well. The bears would make their rounds, not nightly but in some bi-weekly/monthly? fashion – so be prepared for the possibility of a return, tho it's good it didn't find much to prompt a return to your house.

    I carry pepper spray in my purse and also when I go walking. I live in a small town so many people don't leash their dogs and even they can be scary and unpredictable. Some little anklebite came close to being my first “victim” but I was patient and just kept on walking, ignoring it.

    Our bird feeder in idaho eventually became the bear feeder as they love sunflower seeds. Four days before we moved to AZ, I stood at the patio window and watched the bear – and then realized he was only about 4 feet away and there was only glass between us so said my goodbye. I viewed it as a nice farewell.

  41. Marta

    “I vote for both the spray and the horn. At the same time, I'd heed the Native American advice to expose your breasts. One can never be too sure…..”

  42. injaynesworld

    In order of priority:

    1. Flash your naked breasts at the bear. I'm dying to know how that works out.

    2. If not so well, blow the bear horn. Although, by now you may just have a horny bear.

    3. So have the bear pepper spray on hand as your weapon of last resort.

    And best of luck to you…

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