Bear With Us

July 29th started out like most other July 29th days. I turned another year older. Ate a breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries, and soy milk. Meditated. Wrote a bit. Deleted a bunch of nonsensical emails and generated a music cue sheet, all before eight o’clock in the morning.

When the clock struck 8:15 a.m., the husband and I took off for June Lake. I wanted to spend a few hours on a kayak, with my love, floating on one of the most beautiful lakes reachable by car in the Eastern Sierra.

Rob Witherall and his Mammoth Kayaks crew took extra good care of us and by 9 a.m. we were paddling away from the east shore of June Lake. The windless morning was flawless as we propelled toward the reflection of Carson Peak. It was early enough in the day, so the water had yet to be disturbed by the wakes of other boats and paddlers. Far offshore we could still see the bottom of the lake. A few trout skirted by under our yellow, double-seated kayak. By 10:30 I was already tired, my over-sixty muscles straining from severe underuse.

By 11 o’clock we were seated at a booth at the Tiger Bar Café for a birthday feast and when the clock struck 1 p.m., I had settled down on our living room couch for a nap before the rest of the birthday festivities commenced.

I was awoken from a deep rest by what sounded like duct tape being ripped in half. I didn’t open my eyes and after a minute, the sound stopped. Then the string of wooden beads that hung in between our sunroom and living room rattled like they do when someone walks through them. I opened my eyes.

Standing on our rug 10 feet away, looking at me as I was looking at him — or her — was a beautiful cinnamon-colored black bear. In our living room. On my birthday.

I slammed down the recliner footrest, stood up and yelled, “Dan!” My husband is the consummate bear-chaser when said bear(s) have made it onto our property. This was the third time a bear had come into the house in the 30-plus years he has owned this place.

Two out of the three times a bear has been in this house, I was living here. The first time a bear tore a screen to get through a window was my fault. Served me right for making maple-roasted pecans and not closing the window above the kitchen stove. The sound I had heard that I thought was duct tape ripping was the bear tearing the screen on the window in the sunroom and walking through. It was the second time a bear tore through a window screen but there was no food cooking. We had no idea why he came through other than because he could.

After I stood up and screamed for my husband, the bear took one step toward me.

Uh oh.

For a moment, I thought he was going to come at me, but then he turned around and ran back out the window. Phew!

I grabbed my cell phone and was going to take a quick video of him — or her — running back up the hill. Instead, he turned toward the door that led out to our deck. I pushed “record” and began our save-the-bear screaming rant. The bear reacted. He turned on his paws as I opened the door and screamed, “Get the ‘F’ out! Out! Out!” My husband followed my screaming by running after the bear, making sure the bear knew he was not welcome in our home.

Bears and humans have co-existed ever since we began building homes in their habitat. Ensuring bears don’t have access to human food will help them continue to live where they’ve lived for thousands of years.

Being of the social media era, I posted my bear rant onto TikTok. Within 12 hours I went from 44 followers to over 7,000 with 3.9 million views. Almost just as fast, TikTok permanently shut down my account because too many people complained we were being mean to the bear.

If we lived in Montana and a grizzly had wandered into our home, it might have been a different ending. But we live in the Sierra Nevada. We love our wildlife, especially our bears. Becoming accustomed to human food will not keep them wild. It will result in them being euthanized. The more bear-screamers we have, the better off they will be in the long run.

As far as TikTok goes, I’ve requested that my account be reinstated several times and no one from TikTok has responded. To those people who thought I was being mean to the bear by yelling for it to go back into the forest? A bear who thinks it’s okay to eat human food is a dead bear. Think again before you blast those of us who want to keep our bears alive, even if it means we scream at them to “Get the fuck out” of our houses.

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Stacey Powells

Writer, Reader, Mom, Grandma, Wifey, Storm Nerd, Geology Nerd, Pathetic Ukulele player, Humanitarian.