In a bit of a reverse Goldilocks scenario, a California family discovered that five bears had found their home just right.
The South Lake Tahoe residents had been hearing “some odd rumbling, snoring-like noises” throughout the winter, but had been ignoring the mysterious sounds because they “simply didn’t make sense,” the BEAR League, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people coexist with bears, wrote on Facebook earlier this week. The neighbors even suggested they might be imagining things.
But the sounds were very real, and there was a logical explanation: bears hibernating in the crawl space underneath the house.
When the bears ― a mother and four young bears around a year old ― woke up, the human residents of the home “could no longer deny there was probably a bear under the house,” the group wrote.
But even then, they didn’t suspect there were so many.
“The residents didn’t realize there were five bears under their house until we got there and told the bears to come out... and then we counted five,” BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant told HuffPost in an email. “They had just thought it was one very noisy bear.”
The BEAR League then “un-invited Mama Bear,” a process Bryant said involved “being territorial and scary, thereby making the bear believe it’s not going to be safe there anymore.” She emphasized that volunteers never physically hurt bears, though “sometimes we do hurt their feelings.”
Once the mother was roused out of the crawl space, she called back to the cubs and they followed her out.
The BEAR League noted on Facebook that three of the cubs were the mother’s biological offspring, but one was an orphaned cub she had “adopted” last year. Bears adopting cubs is “considered to be quite rare,” Bryant said, but it does happen. In this case, the cub’s biological mother had been hit by a car.
After the ursine family vacated the crawl space, an “electrical barrier” was installed in the crawl space opening so any bears trying to get in will get a small shock. But Bryant added that prevention is the best defense against unwanted bear lodgers.
“Each winter, about 100 to 150 of our bears attempt to hibernate under homes here at Tahoe,” she said. “The BEAR League is kept very busy moving bears out of these crawl spaces, often several bears each day.”
Crawl spaces have “cave-like” openings that seem like a “vacancy sign” to bears looking to hibernate. But people can easily solve this problem by closing up those openings.
“People really need to make sure their crawl space openings are closed and secured before bears go inside... especially in the fall, when they are looking for hibernation dens,” she said.