Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Bear Who Said, "Just You Wait, You'll Be Sorry!"

We had a recent bear incident, which reminded me of an evening a couple of years ago when I went for a “ride-along” with Truckee Police Sergeant Marty Schoenberg. At one point, as an example of the contrast between his law enforcement experience in the Tahoe-Truckee area and his past experience as a cop in the Bay Area, Marty joked about how a good chunk of the calls to the Truckee police are about bears.
Our first traffic stop involved providing backup for other cops who'd stopped a small car out of which emerged at least two more young men than you'd think would fit in a car of that size. A couple of them were teenagers, and in the bright flood lights of the patrol units, they showed a sullen look that suggested that they were up to something that runs counter to the wishes of California lawmakers. Of course, there are rules about evidence and probable cause, but those looks were hard to ignore. Their faces communicated without words... “Just you wait, you'll be sorry.”
Later in the evening, Marty got a bear call just as he'd predicted. We went to investigate only to find that the bear had already left the scene. Nevertheless, looking for the bear made me forget about the kids.
I thought of that ride-along a few months ago when I heard a noise in our back room. I turned to see a yearling black bear, maybe 150 pounds, on the deck outside the sliding glass door. He was trying to claw the door open.
Black Bear Yearling photo
in the San Francisco Chronicle

I walked over, clapping my hands and yelling something clever like, “Go away!”
The young bear just looked at me and continued to work at the edge of the door. He hooked his big, youthful claws onto the rim of the glass and scratched and gouged and pulled sideways to his right, apparently knowing that the door opened to his right.
Bears are smart, and they know that it is dangerous to mix it up with humans. So they generally wait until we're gone before they raid our houses.
Not this guy.
So, like a cop, I called for backup. My wife appeared with two large pan lids. She banged them together like cymbals. Despite a volume that was damaging to our ears, the juvenile-delinquent bear continued to ignore us. My wife moved next to the window door and banged the pan lids within inches of the bear, separated only by the glass.
The bear gave us a look that was very similar to the sullen look that those teenagers gave the cops the night I rode in the patrol unit. This “teenaged” bear moved a bit away, then stopped and turned back. I swear his eyes narrowed and his face looked like he was sneering at us.
“Just you wait,” I almost heard him say. “Sometime when you're gone, when you've forgotten about me, I'll be back. And you'll be sorry.”
He gave us one more glare of youthful antipathy and then sauntered away, taking his sweet time.
In Tahoe, we have a steady dose of bear incidents. There was a woman who lives a half mile from us. She took a nap on her deck and woke up to find a bear sniffing her face. Another woman came home, carried her groceries into her house and found the freezer door standing open. She turned around to see a bear sitting on the floor in the living room eating the Dreyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Some vacationers recently came to the lake and parked their vehicle outside of their vacation lodgings only the have a bear break into the vehicle, climb inside and get stuck. Its panicked response was to tear up the interior, then shift the transmission into neutral and take the car for a ride down the sloping street.
Now, when I hear these stories, I think of our young bear and his sullen look. “Just you wait. You'll be sorry...”
I am waiting. And I'll probably end up sorry.


  1. Todd,
    Just saw that you have a blog! Wahooo!!!!
    We love all your books and see you at South Shore every summer for a book signing.
    Nice to have a little bit of Tahoe in our lives through your blog:) We'll see ya in July 2013!!
    Amanda Baker and the girls