Saturday night was action-packed for homeowner Barb Billingsley in Sunningdale when a bear broke into her basement.
On May 16, around 11 p.m., a large male black bear came in through the basement door, knocked over a deep freezer, and alarmed Billingsley and her family, but didn’t do any lasting damage.
She says she figured out something was wrong in her home when she heard a noise coming from the basement.
“I just heard the noise downstairs, wondered what it was,” she said. “I just had a feeling, so I grabbed my dog and headed down the stairs. I opened up the door and saw a big bear and the deep freeze was tipped over.”
Her first reaction? Get her family and get out of the house.
“I had a family member sleeping downstairs, so I had to wake him up and get him upstairs fast,” she said, adding that once everyone was out of the basement, the ordeal still wasn’t over.
“We got upstairs and I said, ‘darn, I have to call 911.’ Then I thought the bear was gone because I didn’t hear any other noises. So I went downstairs to go close the door again and he was right there, so I went running for it.”
Billingsley and her family waited at a neighbour’s house until the police arrived to deal with the belligerent bruin.
She says the bear wasn’t a stranger to the area, wreaking havoc at other homes, breaking into her pool house previously and even standing on its hind legs on her deck. The bear wasn’t concerned with humans and wouldn’t leave her property despite the presence of dogs and humans trying to scare it away. As a result, the bear was destroyed by RCMP officers and disposed of by the city.
“The bear just didn’t care. He has been around the neighbourhood a lot, but this time, he came into our house,” she said. “He just stood there with the police spotlight on him and he just wasn’t going away. If he had just left, nothing would have happened to him. He would take something from the basement, go out in the yard and eat it, then come back inside to get something else.”
Now that the bear has been destroyed, she feels safer at home and in Sunningdale.
“I was trying to scare him away and there was no reaction,” said Billingsley. “I am not convinced that he wasn’t going to be aggressive, and he wasn’t at the time, but when he was up on the deck, he was big and intimidating.”
Sgt. Darren Oelke from the Trail RCMP detachment, said the bear was destroyed by officers, but only out of necessity.
“It was just the fact that the bear was in a residential area and there was a concern for the safety of the people that live there,” he said, adding that the bear had made it outside to the yard before it was destroyed.
“The bear had already been inside and officers would have to look at the situation and decide whether or not to destroy the bear.”
Oelke says to keep doors and windows closed to prevent an unwanted visitor in your home, but some bears are determined to get in, no matter what the obstacle.
“I remember, over the last few years, someone would have some food out on the counter in the kitchen and if bears smell it and they want it, (they are going to get it),” said Oelke. “I have seen them breaking windows and right through screen doors. If they are hungry, they are going to try.”