An uninvited guest showed up to Thanksgiving dinner in Victoria Beach, Man. this past Saturday. The CBC reported that Lori Paige and her mother—two of the Thanksgiving diners—went to grab the desserts from the screened-in porch of a nearby cabin, where they’d left them to cool. But as the two women went to open the porch door, they were startled to see a fully-grown black bear chowing down on their after-dinner sweets.
“The problem in this case,” Julie Woodyer, spokesperson for Black Bear Rescue Manitoba, writes in an email, “is that the bear could smell the food source.” A bear’s sense of smell is 2,100 times better than a human’s, meaning they can smell food from nearly 20 miles away.
This bear’s sweet tooth seemed to be its main motivator as it managed to rip a hole in the porch’s screen and shove aside a barbecue to get at the selection of cupcakes, brownies, and cookies—don’t worry, the pumpkin pies were safely stowed in containers.
Paige’s father eventually managed to scare the bear off by sneaking into the cabin through a back door and banging a broom against the window that separates the porch from the cabin. The bear climbed out through the hole it had ripped in the screen and sauntered away.
“At this time of year, bears need to fatten up for their winter hibernation,” Woodyer writes. “Some females will give birth in the den in January or February, so they must go into hibernation with enough fat stores to make it through the winter and nurse their little babies.”
To avoid having a bear crash your holiday dinner, Woodyer says you need to manage the attractants around your cottage. This includes not leaving out bird seed or dog food, cleaning your barbecue after grilling, placing your garbage in a secure location, keeping compost away from your cottage, and not leaving desserts on your screened-in porch.
If you are unlucky enough to come face-to-snout with a wayward bear in an enclosed space, Woodyer writes don’t panic. “Black bears are unlikely to attack.” They are shy animals and prefer avoiding human contact. But this doesn’t mean you should hang around taking photos and videos. If a black bear feels cornered, they may huff and run at you. “Keep clear of the bear even if it means leaving the house temporarily until the bear vacates the premises.”
As humans continue to encroach on bears’ habitats, the animals are forced to expand their territory to find enough food to survive, causing these kinds of interactions to become more common. “Leave them the space necessary for them to make a living and be kind by not setting up a situation where a bear may end up in trouble because they are nearly always the ones that are killed if someone complains,” Woodyer writes.