My birth mom has been living a nomadic van life for several years now. She comes to our place for a visit several times a year, and typically stays for a week or so. She was here a couple of weeks ago; one evening she and I and SB were in the 5th wheel. It was about 8:30 pm, so already quite dark. Suddenly, we heard a bang and then a scraping sound and then a grunty sort of moan. It sounded like a bear. SB took a light and went out to investigate. Four eyes peered out at him from under the travel trailer (the 26 footer we lived in the first 2 years we were up here. It is parked right next to the 5th wheel; we use the fridge/freezer and to store food and other items. Plus, it is nice to have an extra bed and bathroom). The eyes belonged to two adolescent bears. Birth mom had some plastic tubs of food (canned and packaged) on the back rack of her van, parked right by the travel trailer. The bears had hauled the tubs underneath the travel trailer and were happily enjoying the contents. Did you know that a half-grown bear can bite right into canned foods? Well, they sure can. They left empty, mangled cans behind.
So we discussed whether or not birth mom should sleep in the 5th wheel that night (she prefers her van). We theorized that possibly the bears had lost their mama in the fire, or perhaps were newly independent from her. Eventually, the noises died down. SB went back out with a light (and bear spray!) and there was no sign of them. He walked birth mom to her van and she got in and locked up for the night.
During the next few days, we were fairly certain that the bears were making nocturnal visits, but there was no more thievery. Then one night, SB and I were awakened at approximately 3:30am by some loud noises. Birth mom had already traveled on at this point. I opened the shade for the window next to our bed. The window looks down on the travel trailer and I could see that the bottom half of the door was open, but the top half was not. It’s a one-piece door. They had pried the bottom open although the door was still in a closed position. As I was looking, a dark head poked out from underneath the travel trailer, then went back under. Soon a dark head poked out from the lower part of the door. Soon it was followed by a body, and that bear went under the travel trailer. They seem to prefer eating under there. Then one of them crawled out and went back into the trailer. Before too long, a third bear came along, much larger than the other two. So, they haven’t been separated from mama after all. Mama was too large to fit through the pried open bottom part of the door, but she grabbed the door and yanked on it hard (I was shocked that the lock held) and reached in. I’m not sure if she could reach what she wanted or if junior was pushing food towards her, but her arm came out and she held an entire case of canned food in one paw. She took it and walked off into the dark.
(Despite everything, I enjoyed watching them. They are beautiful creatures. It was a treat to observe them so close up, knowing I was safe.)
Of course, we have always known that if a bear really wanted to come into our home, it could. But bears are typically not quite that aggressive. (These are black bears, not grizzly). They will look through garbage cans and take any food left outside, but entering a place that smells like human is not something they will generally do. In the summers, we sleep with our door open (screen closed) and have never had any animal encounters.
This sort of occurrence continued nightly for a week or so. We put ammonia around everywhere which is supposed to be a deterrent. It’s apparently not. SB sprayed them twice (bear spray is a very strong pepper spray). They ran off, very unhappy, but were back within a few hours.
We called 911 twice. The first time deputies came out and looked around, but the bears were long gone. The second time the deputy called back and said it would be about 2 hours before he could come, he would like to just forward the call to the Dept of Fish & Game if that was OK. We said that was fine. A Fish & Game agent called back the next day. It turns out that Fish & Game no longer re-homes bears. The agent said that the survival rate was less than 50% so they have stopped the practice. He recommended shooting them with paintball guns. Also, we could apply for a depradation permit. Since there was property damage, we would likely be approved. That means you have permission to kill the bear. Well, we were calling because we wanted them re-homed, not killed. (We hadn’t realized there was a low survival rate for re-homed bears).
Finally, they went through all of the food in the travel trailer. They haven’t been back in several nights. I hope it is over for now. It’s getting colder and snowed last night; they should hibernate soon. I fully expect they will be back in the spring. I don't know what we are going to do about the door. It is an older travel trailer, it might be hard to find a replacement door. We can still use it for storage, but no more food storage.