HELENA — We’ve all done it. The clock strikes midnight, your stomachs start grumbling, and all you can think about is that chip bag up in the cupboard. But imagine your surprise if the culprit you came upon poking around in your kitchen wasn’t a member of your family or even your species.
Well, that’s exactly what Michelle Millard Thomas experienced around 2:30 AM on Monday the 15th of August.
Thomas was prompted to get out of bed after hearing a glass jar fall to the ground. What she saw next as she stepped out of her bedroom froze her in place.
“I froze, froze. Yeah, I didn't wanna make any sound and I decided to go back to my room and scare him from behind the closed door. So, we just went back in my room and made as much noise as I could make,” says Thomas.
A large bear, most likely a black bear, was helping itself to some snacks right outside Thomas’ bedroom. As she began making noise from inside her bedroom, Michelle woke her husband up in the process and said the only thing you can say in that moment:
“There's a bear in the house, really,” says Thomas.
After enough time, they figured the bear had been scared off and made their way back into the kitchen area.
“Yeah, I eventually decided to venture out and walk through the house and make sure he was, went out the way he came and he did,” says Thomas.
Thankfully, the only casualties of the bear breaking through the window were a couple of screens, a couple of scratches on the wood, and a lost bit of kettle corn, bread, and grapes.
Thomas says that she called Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks first thing the next morning.
“We did set up a trap there at that residence and left it there for three nights. We did not capture a bear and a bear was not seen again at the residence,” says Morgan Jacobsen, Information Officer for Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks.
Thomas said that they had had a busy weekend and had had a grill outside along with a bird feeder. That plus some open windows with food inside may very well have attracted the bear to the house.
“And they suggested taking down bird feeders and putting away the grill and the smoker and, you know, getting rid of the, and then lock up,” says Thomas.
“The sources for most of the conflicts that we see for bears in residential areas are garbage and bird feeders and just similar attractants,” says Jacobsen.
Jacobsen says that this time of year is especially important to be vigilant of bears and what may attract them.
“Bears do go into what's called hyperphagia which basically is just a time period when they are more active in consuming calories and just spend more hours of the day seeking food,” says Jacobsen.
So, remember to be bear aware as bears get prepared for winter and keep food and garbage locked up and out of sight and smell.