A black bear mauled the inside of a small SUV early Wednesday in the Forest Lakes subdivision, likely a temper tantrum after it got locked inside the vehicle.
Kourtney Anderson, 17, said she was asleep about 1:30 a.m. when she heard an intermittent car horn honking outside.
“At first, I thought it was just some crazy guy driving past the roads honking,” she said.
Kourtney got up and looked outside and saw her mother’s 2003 Honda Pilot with its lights on and windows fogged up. She sent a series of text messages to her mother, Kaylie Smith, trying to get her to wake up.
“Something is in the car and just woke me up, like crazy,” she texted at 1:30 a.m. “The car honked so long. It’s a bear!”
The bear apparently figured out how to open the car door and get inside, but in doing so, also managed to close the door behind it. In an effort to free itself, the bear tore apart a passenger door until it opened. No windows were broken during the trespass.
Kourtney said she was too scared to go outside, so she kept sending late-night text messages to her mother, updating her of the situation. She didn’t want to knock on her mom’s door.
“She hasn’t been getting much sleep lately,” Kourtney said. “I didn’t want to be rude.”
After the bear freed itself and the commotion died down, Kourtney ventured outside to assess the damage.
She sent more text messages to her mother.
“OMG mom, OMG. I just checked it out,” she texted. “The entire passenger-side door is completely torn up. You can’t even shut the door. It’s so bad mom, you’re going to freak out.”
The incident lasted for 1½ to 2 hours.
Smith woke up at 5 a.m. to see her daughter’s text messages.
Smith said the car was cleaned last weekend, and there was no food inside. To add insult to injury, her boyfriend had made repairs and performed routine maintenance to the vehicle that same night.
The bear tore apart door panels, seat upholstery and ceiling mesh and left scat in the backseat, Smith said.
She hopes her car insurance covers the damage.
It is not unheard of for bears to break into cars. But usually they are motivated by the smell of food, said Bryan Peterson, executive director of Bear Smart Durango.
“Once bears find a food reward in a vehicle, they’ll search other vehicles looking for the same,” he said. “Once it gets started, it’s really difficult to change that bear’s behavior. It typically ends with damage, insurance claims and likely the death of a bear.”
He encouraged residents to lock their car doors and keep all food out of vehicles, including gum and beverages.
He also reminded residents to remove bird feeders, which entice bears to approach homes.
“You’re basically training bears to come right up to your home, and that leads to future problems,” Peterson said.