In a somewhat reverse Goldilocks storyline, a California family finds that five bears have found their perfect home.
South Lake Tahoe residents had heard “strange humming-like noises” throughout the winter, but ignored the mysterious sounds because they “just didn’t make sense”, the BEAR League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people coexist with bears, wrote on Facebook earlier this week. The neighbors even suggested that they could imagine things.
But the sounds were real, and there was a logical explanation: bears hibernating in the crawl space under the house.
When the bears – a mother and four cubs about a year old – awoke, the human residents of the house “could no longer deny that there was probably a bear under the house”, the group wrote.
But even then, they had no idea there were so many.
“The locals didn’t realize there were five bears under their house until we got there and told the bears to come out…and we counted five,” said Ann Bryant , executive director of the BEAR League, to HuffPost in an email. “They just thought it was a very noisy bear.”
The BEAR League then “uninvited Mama Bear”, a process which Bryant said involved “being territorial and scary, thus tricking the bear into believing that it will no longer be safe there”. She pointed out that volunteers never physically hurt the bears, although “sometimes we hurt their feelings.”
Once the mother was woken out of the crawl space, she called the cubs back and they followed her.
The BEAR League noted on Facebook that three of the cubs were the mother’s biological offspring, but one was an orphan cub she “adopted” last year. Bears adopting cubs are “considered quite rare,” Bryant said, but it does happen. In this case, the baby’s biological mother had been hit by a car.
After the bear family left the crawl space, an “electrical barrier” was installed in the opening of the crawl space so that any bear trying to enter would receive a small shock. But Bryant added that prevention is the best defense against unwanted bears.
“Every winter, about 100 to 150 of our bears try to hibernate under houses here in Tahoe,” she said. “The BEAR League is very busy moving bears out of these crawl spaces, often several bears each day.”
The crawl spaces have “cave-like” openings that appear to be a “sign of vacancy” for bears looking to hibernate. But people can easily solve this problem by closing these openings.
“People really need to make sure their crawlspace openings are closed and secure before bears come inside…especially in the fall when they’re looking for hibernation dens,” she said.