A bear that broke into an SUV early Friday in Durango took it for a short ride, rolling it out of a driveway and crashing it into a mailbox.
The commotion woke Ron Cornelius and his wife, who found the trashed Subaru in their yard on Timberline Drive in Timberline View Estates.
“Usually, I don’t get up at 5 o’clock unless there is a bear driving a car down the street,” Cornelius joked.
After the bear broke into the car, it likely released the parking brake somehow, he said.
The couple didn’t see the bear leave the SUV and called 911 after the crash because they didn’t know if people were to blame and possibly still in the vehicle.
The car rolled backward from a neighbor’s home into Cornelius’ mailbox and over some utility boxes, he said.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office deputies determined a bear was to blame, because it defecated in the car, likely because it was nervous, Cornelius said.
It also ripped up the interior of the vehicle. It pulled the steering wheel straight off the shaft, ripped the radio out of the dash and busted out the back window.
“It would have taken a human being hours to do what this bear did in a couple minutes,” he said.
He wasn’t sure what was in the vehicle that attracted the bear.
Bears have been active around Durango this summer breaking into garbage cans and cars.
City code enforcement officers have responded to more than 200 complaints involving bears and trash so far this year. Last year, the officers responded to 56 bear calls total, said Code Enforcement Officer Steve Barkley.
Most people are upgrading trash cans to the wildlife-resistant containers, but it’s important for residents to remember to keep those cans closed and secure, he said.
A late frost on June 10 hurt acorn and berry production in the mountains. The berries that bears rely on would normally be ripening around this time of year, but bears aren’t finding them, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski.
He expects this year will be tough on the bear population
“We are expecting a lot of cub mortality,” he said.
Recent rains might help with natural food sources, but the agency does not expect bears to stop searching for human food in garbage cans, compost piles and other sources, he said.
“We’re asking people to be extra vigilant,” he said.
CPW recommends residents keep cars locked and take steps to keep bears away from trash and homes.
Residents should take down bird feeders and make sure fruit from trees is picked when it’s ripe.
Freezing food scraps in plastic bags until trash day can help keep bears away, and hanging rags soaked in Pine-Sol or ammonia around compost, chicken coops and other bear attractants can function as a deterrent, he said.
Residents who observe aggressive bears that are not showing fear around people should notify CPW by calling 247-0855.