I wrote the following story here in 2019 after a home break-in. Since our local bears are now becoming more active, I was thinking that I should repost this as a friendly reminder to all locals that bear break-ins happen often in our area, so do remember to close your windows before you retire for the night. 

Close Encounters of the Furry Kind
by Keno (written in the morning of Aug 15, 2019)

First of all, I love living in this area and have been here now for 17 years. But if you lived in Crestone or the Baca long enough, chances are you have had at least one close encounter with your local neighborhood bear. Being that years ago I was the wildlife reporter for the local newspaper (The Crestone Eagle, of course), Iíve investigated and written about our local bears in the past and even reported on one break-in to a home just 2 blocks from where I live. I also in my 17 summers living there, had 2 close encounters with bears, both times at night, and now, for a third time, it has happened again. But for the first time for me Ė this time it took place inside of my home! Like so many other locals before me, I got to witness how quickly they can get into you home at night if you leave open your windows after you go to sleep. Iíve always been aware of this problem from the many stories Iíve either heard of or read about, and also from a couple of locals who directly told me their stories of fighting off a bear who was trying to get into their homes (always at night it seems). So last night, or should I say early this morning, it was my turn to experience this!

Again, this was round 3 for me with a close encounter with a bear here, but the first 2 times the animal wasnít trying to get into the house. The first time was many years ago, about 12, maybe 14 or so years ago, when I heard a commotion outside by my garden, which is adjacent to my homeís sunroom. So I went out the back door with a baseball bat in my hand knowing it had to be a bear and sure enough thatís what it was. It was a moonless night and when I think back on what I did that night, well that was a very foolish thing to do. But within a second of going out the back door Ė there it was, but not the biggest bear for this area (and as most of you all know we do have some big ones around here). It at first made a move towards me and at that very moment I wished I had stayed inside, as this animal was only trying to get through the chicken wire fence around the garden. After at first growling at me, it then turned away and ran, and thatís the end of that story, other than after I thought it over, I realized what I stupid move I had made. The bear was only trying to get into the garden and nothing more than that. I should have never gone after it like I did.

Then there was 2 summers ago (or was it 3 summers ago? I canít remember for sure), but it was in the same summer when only a week after a local here had been ripped into badly in his chest and arms by a bear one day while out on his deck. Anyway, it was about 2 am or so, on another moonless summer night and perfect weather for some stargazing. So I was on my front deck with my grandson Cooperís small telescope, set up on the wooden table out there. I had music playing in the house and Coop was asleep inside the house, so I was alone out there enjoying the view of the stars above. I didnít hear the sound that is normally made when someone (or something) walks on the deck (thanks to the music playing inside the house), as this bear was walking down the side of the same deck that I was on, but it was on the side of the deck where the house blocks the view of what (or who) was heading directly towards me. All of a sudden Ė and only 2 feet away from me, appears this giant bear! He was just as surprise to see me standing there as I was to see him. He stood up tall on his back legs and growled at me as I yelled back at him! I scared him as much as he scared me and then he turned around and ran in the opposite direction, as I headed towards the front door and inside the house as fast as I could. My guess is when that bear returned to his den, he must had told his mate of this scary old hippie dude that he had just ran into!... Anyway, I havenít stargazed out on the deck since that night!

Then last night Ė well, early this morning, I had my third close encounter with a bear. Again, I have heard or been told several stories of bears breaking into homes here in town, but not until a bear tries to break into your home do you realize how real the threat is. Having a close encounter outside with a bear is one thing, and around here really not uncommon. But having one inside your home is an entire different story! I have often joked in the past to friends who live elsewhere, how where I live, we donít really worry too much about people breaking into our homes in the greater Crestone area, but some of us do worry about bears breaking in. But the truth of the matter is, if you live here Ė you damn well better worry about this happening to you sooner or later Ė that is, if you have windows in your house that open up (and everybody does), and you forget and leave them open at night after you go to bed.

I always remember to close my windows before retiring for the night after I saw firsthand what a local bear did to the inside of my neighborís home one night when they were away from the house and left open a window. But Iím a night owl of the highest degree, one who usually rarely goes to bed before the light of dawn. But I am like many others when sometimes I do fall asleep for a few hours on the living room couch, and if it is in the summer, I havenít yet closed the windows for the night yet.

I was home alone on Wednesday night with the grandson away, having a normal evening, and was reading the manual for my brand new online weather station that had just been delivered to my home the day before, but which I hadnít taken out of the box it came in yet. I recall it was about 11 pm or so, and the next thing I know, I unexpectedly fell asleep on the living room couch. I had already closed the doors to the house for the night and the only windows downstairs that were still open was the small window in the kitchen by the sink. I have a small open kitchen and my living room, where I feel asleep, is directly across from it. It was 1:30 in the morning and the twin sliding kitchen windows were only slightly open at this time, while the other downstairs windows were all closed for the night. I was awaken to the sound of the kitchen blinds of all things, which were down and half way closed, being breached. Yet I didnít awake at first to the sound of five small glass bottles holding water with small plants growing inside of them - and sitting on the window shill Ė falling Ė well, being pushed into the sink below Ė as this bear opened up the sliding window all the way and knocked them into the sink. All I heard were the blinds making a crinkling sound as the bear was coming in through the window and blinds - while pushing the blinds forward and out of its way! Thatís what woke me up! I didnít even realize I had fallen asleep or what time it was, but instinctively Ė and still half asleep, I knew exactly what was happening even before I saw the bear half inside the window! I jumped up screaming at the bear Ė ďGET OUT OF HERE!!Ē I yelled at it as I jumped up and ran towards the window at it, and the animal backed out of the window and left in a flash! But it was already half inside the house and had I awaken 30 seconds later it would have been totally inside Ė and just feet from the living room couch that I was sleeping on. I didnít have any time at all to be scarred, nor to think straight, as you donít charge at a wild bear Ė even one that is inside your house, not without a weapon in your hand anyway!

Itís funny, Iíve always kept a stun gun on the living room table next to my couch just in case a bear ever tried to break in. I always figured the animal would still be at the window and I could stun it before it got inside. Well, once it happens to you, you realize that things like this just donít happen in such a simple way. Plus when I awoke I didnít even think of that stun gun!

This bear was medium in size, but still not one you would ever want to approach, and Iím not sure how it fitted through the window. But again, I was half asleep and not thinking straight when this took place Ė and not expecting to be awakening to what I saw. Heck, I didnít even realize that I had fallen asleep! I just heard this animal breaking into my home and automatically awoke and reacted in the way I did! In a way Iím glad I did what I had to do while not being 100% awake, other than charging the bear was a mistake (and this was now the second time I made that same mistake!). But the bear left the house and property in a flash, as if its life depended on it! Yet for the third time now, for me, each time the bear did as we are told what they usually do when confronting a person, they will turn and run away! While this was my third encounter here with a bear, itís the fourth time overall that Iíve come face to face with one, as the first time it happened to me was in Yosemite National Park, back in my youth when I was about 20 years old, hiking on a trail there. Yep, the bear that day did the very same thing, it saw me and my girlfriend and turned and ran in the other direction!

It is crazy, but my guess is that many locals donít really think a bear might break into their home, and I wonder how many go to bed at night with their windows open? Do you?.... WellÖdonít! I always close mine at bedtime, but again, I stay up 5 out of 7 nights a week till dawn and I never close the windows at night until that time, and yes, Iíve fallen asleep unexpectedly before, with more windows open than what I had open last night. All of my other windows are larger windows and would be much easier for a bear to get inside than the kitchen window. But because of what I know and what Iíve seen around here, I am bear aware. Are you? I now realize that even I wasnít bear aware enough, and not really sure how to deal with keeping bears out of the house at night now. I also always keep the upstairs windows in the bedrooms open all summer long, even at night. But the ones adjacent to the lower garage roof Ė should those be kept closed at night too? Would a bear climb up on the roof to get inside? I never really thought of that before, but now I will. A bear could do that, but my guess is it wonít waste its energy to do it. Or would it? I guess a phone call is in order to our local wildlife officer to find out. But one must always feel safe inside their home, and I always have, but after this encounter - inside of my home - I just lost a bit of that secured feeling. I canít wait till fall gets here and it cools off, and the local bears go to sleep for the winter. Until then, Iím going to be much more bear aware then Iíve been. I suggest you do the very same, since itís only a matter of time in this neck of the words, that it will happen to you too Ė and yes, it will happen to you - sooner or later!


K
itchen window w/damaged screen/blinds where the bear came in

Update
(Aug 16 @ 230pm)

Today I spoke with a Colorado State Wildlife officer from the local office in Monte Vista named Clayton, who informed me that there have now been 20 home bear break-ins (or near break-ins, like what I described above) in the Crestone-Baca area since June! That is a much larger number than normal and it doesn't matter where in the town of Crestone (or the Baca) you may live, as they been reported all over the entire area, and it's believed that several different bears are responsible for these break-ins. In all but one case windows were left open or garbage cans were left unsecured outside. In the most bizarre case, one bear in the town of Crestone broke through a closed glass window - shattering the glass to get inside the house!

Clayton for the most part blamed us humans for the increase in these encounters, mainly because of unsecured garbage cans attracting them to homes. In the case with the break-in at my home, that wasn't the case, there were no garbage cans left out that night, but he noted to me if a nearby neighbor left their garbage out, that is what could have drawn the bear to my home, too. So please secure your trash - and - do talk to your nearby neighbors about this problem, too, so they are aware of this. Plus most important, remember for sure to close your windows after dark, or at least before retiring for the night. Believe me, you don't want to experience a bear break-in! For me, now that I experienced this first hand, I would have preferred that it had been a human breaking in instead, since in part with a bear, once they set sights on your house, they will return for more - sooner or later. 

Keno

Crestone Weather Center