First I opened one eye, then in disbelief that it was already daylight, I opened the other to verify. Damn! I begrudgingly sat up, then got up and headed for the generator shack. Inspecting my surroundings on the way there and back revealed nothing out of the ordinary. That’s a good sign, right?
Upon returning to the lodge, I pulled the door to the laundry room open and entered, removed my boots and headed for the coffee pot. As I made the corner out of the laundry room, toward the dining room, I glanced into the kitchen and noticed some garbage on the floor. I poked my head in and saw the garbage can lying on the floor to my right. Thinking, that’s odd, I looked to the left, the other one was also lying on the floor. I walked further in toward the walk-in cooler and saw boxes of produce and garbage all over the place. The back door to the deck was open and the screen door was ripped wide open.
I ran for the bedroom to get Wendi and met her on the stairs as she was coming down.
“We’ve had a bear… IN THE KITCHEN!”
“What? How’d he get in?”
“Through the screen door.”
“But the inside door was shut tight and latched.”
“Well, come and see for yourself.”
We went back to the kitchen. The door from the kitchen to the porch is wooden with almost the entire upper half a glass window and its knob is the handle type. On the glass, there was a large dirty smear from the top of the window leading all the way down and across toward the handle. The door opens inward, so after tearing away the screen on the screen door, he’d gotten lucky and opened the door.
I left Wendi there and went to make sure that our visitor wasn’t still in the building. I checked all the bedrooms on the main floor, in case, you know, he was trying to find the most comfortable bed – He was gone.
Wendi came out of the kitchen and said she had been meaning to ask me what was in that case down the hall by the door to Jordan’s room. I didn’t know what she was talking about so we went down the hall and she showed me. I opened the case, it was Jordan’s rifle – a .243, with ammunition.
Wendi went out to Cosmic Debris and got the gun oil and brought it to the lodge. I used some clean cloth and fishing line and ran several swabs through the barrel, to be sure it was clean. Man, was it ever rusty – yes, inside the barrel!
Satisfied that it was clean enough, I left it with a full magazine in a central location. While we waited for his imminent return, we discussed how to treat the situation. Do I just fire into the air and try to scare him off and trust that he’ll not return? Was this the same bear that I photographed on the beach last spring, the one that wasn’t too frightened by the bear banger? Finally, what would a conservation officer do if I reported that a bear broke into my kitchen? The answer to that is simple, they’d bring a trap, bait it and kill it. I didn’t feel good about baiting but I knew I wouldn’t really have to, either. Reporting it to Conservation was not really an option, due to our location.
If the bear hadn’t breached the building, I’d have treated the situation the same way as I did last spring, I’d have scared him off. Unfortunately, when he entered the building, he sealed his own fate.
We stayed mostly indoors that day and kept an eye out for him. When I did go outside, I took the rifle with me. He was a no show that day, so we stayed up as late as we could that night but he never made an appearance. I did not shut the generator down that night because I did not want to have to deal with him in the dark. We locked the deadbolt on the kitchen door when we went to bed.
Morning came and we got up and did a patrol of the building and found no evidence of a visit. I kept suggesting to myself that maybe he’s moved on and I won’t have to kill him but I knew that wasn’t going to be the case. It was only a matter of time before he returned.
We were in the middle of lunch – mushroom soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – when we heard a noise from the kitchen. We both stopped and looked at each other. We got up, Wendi went toward the kitchen, I went for the gun. She cautiously went to the kitchen door and as soon as she looked in toward the back door, she turned and said, “It’s him”.
I went out onto the front deck through the front patio door and walked slowly and quietly, considering my every move ahead of time, to the end of the building and peered around the corner. I could see him standing at the back door, I lifted the rifle to my shoulder.
Inside, Wendi had crept further into the kitchen and was watching him through the window. He was rattling the door handle and chewing on the door. He licked the glass as Wendi began to think he was going to come through the door before I could shoot.
I pulled the trigger. He dropped to the deck and I moved closer. He was not convulsing, so I put two more shots into him and watched as his eyes faded to a murky haze.
I ejected the last spent casing from the chamber and went inside. At the dining room table, I set the rifle down and returned to my lunch at the side table. We finished our lunch in silence as I considered how to deal with his carcass.
I tell this story, not because I’m happy or proud that I’ve killed this animal. It’s a sad story and a waste of not just a life but an important part of the ecosystem of Haida Gwaii. I feel no joy from this act but I do feel relieved that the problem has been neutralized. I feel angry that this problem was in fact created out of ignorance to the dangers of attracting bears. I feel angry that it was me that had to terminate the bear but relieved that at least we know where he is.
After lunch, Wendi went out and got a cart and a rope. We rolled him up into the cart and wheeled him down to the dock. With a large buoy attached to a slip knot around his neck, we drug him off the dock with the company boat and over to Kiokathli inlet.
Neither of us wanted to have to kill him but at least this way, we know that he is no longer a threat to us.
This is a tragic story that was one hundred percent preventable. From the girl who was shocked to find out that there are bears here (in the wilderness) to the rotting oranges that the bear snacked on at the back door of the Guide Shack, there were numerous tell-tale signs of ignorance to the danger of attracting bears.
Whether we’re camping in the wilderness, or living in suburbia, this is the time of year when we all need to be extra “Bear Aware”. If not for our own safety, for the sake of the bears.