Black bear breaks into Manitoba cottage while family is inside

Asset 2

A family was trapped inside their Manitoba cottage for nearly an hour with a bear after it broke in early Monday morning. 

At approximately 4 a.m. on July 18, Kat Devuono was awoken by the sound of glass shattering at their family cottage in Lester Beach, Man. “I woke my mom and sister up. That’s when we discovered that there was a black bear in the back of our cottage,” she says. 

The family has owned the cottage for nearly 50 years, and Devuono was staying there with her sister, mother, nieces and nephews, and children at the time.

Devuono isn’t sure what attracted the bear, as she says the family hadn’t left any food or garbage out in their sunroom. But, once it got into their cottage, the animal began to dig through the family’s fridge eating chocolate cake and several other snacks and leaving behind a pile of granola bar wrappers. 

While no one was injured, Devuono says the sunroom is often used for sleeping so the family is fortunate the situation didn’t turn out far worse. “Our first concern was ‘Oh my gosh, did any kids sleep there?’ And thankfully it had been really hot that night. So we put all the kids in the front of the cottage,” she says.

The family’s car keys were in the sunroom with the bear which meant the family couldn’t escape to the safety of their vehicles. Instead, they barricaded the door to where the bear was located, and put their children in a separate section of the cottage farthest away from the wild animal. 

My sister took them and played some games with them,” she says. “They definitely caught on to the fact that there was a bear in the cottage and we’re seeing days after that they’re still scared.”

Devuono says they immediately called 911 for assistance. The family was directed to the RCMP and then Manitoba Natural Resources and Development, which is in charge of conservation, but were informed that no conservation officers were working at that time. 

“I don’t know if there’s anything scarier in the pitch black to be told nobody is coming. That was really upsetting,” says Devuono. Eventually, RCMP officers were dispatched to the cottage, but the little comfort that it brought to Devuono was dampened by the fact that it would take them nearly an hour to arrive. 

The RCMP say they received a call about the incident at approximately 4:30 a.m. and officers were dispatched once they were informed that no conservation officers would be able to attend to the scene. The officers were sent in from Selkirk, Man., which is roughly a 50-minute drive from Lester Beach. 

In an email, a spokesperson for the RCMP said “RCMP were advised that conservation would not be attending, so the officer called the complainant for an update. It was reported that the bear was inside the cabin and there were several adults and children inside as well. Officers immediately began heading to the address.”

The RCMP says the officers arrived at approximately 5:30 a.m., but the bear had already exited the cottage. Officers searched the property but the animal was nowhere to be found.

Devuono says the RCMP and conservation officers did a great job once they arrived on the scene. She says she wishes conservation had more resources to dispatch officers at all times of the day. 

In an emailed statement, Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development said: “Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development’s tip line is monitored, but conservation officers are not on duty 24/7 around the province. Staff at the call centre relay messages to the appropriate staff but there would not have been anyone on duty at that time of night. So based on the urgent nature of the situation this is where calling 911 is the best course of action.”

Conservation officers set up a trap Monday morning, but the bear returned to their cottage twice Monday evening. Devuono says the bear returned once in the daylight, giving her daughter a second fright, and again at night, which they only discovered because the bear had broken down another screen in their sunroom. 

She says the damage to their cottage throughout the whole ordeal was mostly limited to the sunroom’s siding and screening, and the window that the bear smashed. “Inside it wasn’t bad, it didn’t do a terrible job,” she says. “It just got into the fridges and so it was just a mess but not damaged in any way.”

Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development say they have set up a total of three traps since Monday night and have captured two bears. One of the captured bears was euthanized by officers and the other was removed from the area and released. Conservation officers continue to monitor the situation and two traps remain in place as a precaution.

Bear safety tips

Chris Benson of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation says that bears typically aim to avoid human interactions but are food driven.

He said it’s possible that the bear smelt something it wanted to eat, but notes that, while rare, sometimes incidents like this do happen. “Bears will normally avoid people, they want to do their own thing,” says Benson, adding that it is rare for bears to enter homes but that interactions are certainly more frequent in bear country. 

Regardless, Benson suggests folks be prudent with common bear safety measures that can help prevent a potential run-in.

  • Minimize smells by properly storing food
  • Clean up after cooking strong-smelling dishes
  • Take down bird feeders in the late winter when bears are exiting hibernation
  • Travel in groups and make noise when hiking or walking in bear country
  • Keep your dog on a leash.

So, what should you do if you ever happen to find a bear in your cottage? Benson recommends you follow the same steps as the Devuonos. “The number one thing is don’t put yourself in danger,” he says, urging that maintaining a safe distance and avoiding confrontation is paramount. Benson also strongly recommends calling your province’s conservation office for real-time guidance as each situation is unique.

Featured video