Bear Trapped in Pine Mountain

  • The beauty of this flower garden almost disguises a culvert trap at Pine Mountain residence. A black bear was trapped on Sunday morning, Aug. 9. Insert, a USDA truck hauls the trap containing a black bear from Pine Mountain residence.

    The beauty of this flower garden almost disguises a culvert trap at Pine Mountain residence. A black bear was trapped on Sunday morning, Aug. 9. Insert, a USDA truck hauls the trap containing a black bear from Pine Mountain residence.

By Katy Penland

At 9:20 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, this Mountain Enterprise reporter received a call that a bear was in a trap on Aleutian Drive in Pine Mountain. Eric Covington, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), was already on scene hooking up the mobile trap to his pick-up. Inside the culvert trap was a quiet but heavily panting bear. Also present were one of the property owners, Suzanne Hartman, 65 and her 85-year-old mother. Hartman’s partner, Verna Bagby, 75 was not at home.

At 2 a.m., Hartman said they were awakened by what she thought was the metal door on the trap slamming shut.

She said she couldn’t remember how long the trap had been in place, possibly four to five days.

“We have been taking cherries from the cherry tree. We have apple trees, but he didn’t seem to bother those. But then he got up in the cherry tree and broke a big branch off.” Two ‘Fly Traps’ full of flies were hung next to the damaged cherry tree, and hundreds of the pesky insects were flying in the yard. “[The traps] really stink like rotten meat when you add water,” Hartman offered, “but they catch a lot of flies.”

Two apple trees on the property are undamaged and are heavily laden with apples almost to ground level.

“We followed all the bear aware advice, taking in the dog food, make noise traps, keep the barbecue clean.”

When asked what a ‘noise trap’ was, Hartman explained: “It’s a bunch of junk we pile up that falls. Bells ring, chairs fall over, and big pieces of board, so that he can’t get up on the decks on both sides of the house.” When she hears the bells and things falling, she said she gets “a shotgun.”

Hartman said the reason they called Fish and Game to set a trap was because the three women were terrified and couldn’t sleep. “One time [the bear] tried to grab the sliding glass door out of the frame” and ended up damaging the frame. When asked how big the bear was, Hartman indicated it was a little taller than she was, which is 5’6”, but it “had a big face and was big around.”

Hartman gave a tour of her yard and inside the house. The sliding glass door opens into the kitchen. Two litterboxes were seen, one outside and one inside. Asked if Hartman fed feral cats, because so many do in Pine Mountain, she said yes, “about ten, but not outside.” She said she leaves the sliding glass door open just enough for the cats to come in. A pole is propped to keep the door from being opened any more than a few inches.

When asked if she thought the bear might have been smelling the cat food in the kitchen through the open door, she said, “I don’t know.”

She mentioned a mother cat that had seven litters in the last five years. Hartman has lived at this property for five years. Asked if she trapped the cats and has them spayed or neutered, she said, “We get them all spayed and neutered with Dr. Cosko or somewhere else less expensive.” She didn’t say where that was. She also said the feral cats are allowed into the house in the winter. “They like to stay in the fireplace room,” which is adjacent to the kitchen. She said they don’t have a cat door, they just keep the sliding glass door open.

She said they feed the cats “a little dry a little wet in the morning and again at night.” Covington asked her if she picked up the food in between feedings “because bears are attracted to pet food and they have a very sensitive sense of smell.” Hartman replied yes.

She also said that she ties up the garbage and puts it “in the refrigerator before taking it to the dump.” Several bags of recyclables were sitting outside the sliding glass door on the deck. There were also two freezers sitting outside in a carport on the opposite side of the house.

Covington finished hitching the trap to his truck and was ready to pull out.

“A lot of people don’t understand the work we do. Sometimes we have to remove [the bears]. Otherwise you’re just giving the problem to someone else.”

Pine Mountain resident Suzy Goulart, who said she had received a call about the trapped bear, watched the trap being driven away. She told Hartman that she could see a lot of bear attractants in the yard.

“You know you’re going to have more bears come here. There are around seven seen regularly in this area. Are you going to call Fish and Game on all of them?”

“I don’t want to kill bears,” Hartman replied. “It’s not my intention to do that. This guy was just too friendly. If he just walks through the yard, that’s okay. I don’t care about that. They live up here. But to be terrorized, that’s not life up here. I don’t want it coming back time and time again.”

“Have you tried scaring him with an air horn?” Goulart asked.


“What about those bicycle horns? I’ve used one where I live and it scares them off.”

“No, don’t know about those.”

Goulart said she’d bring Hartman one to use if she has another bear encounter.

Hartman was starting to feel defensive about all the questions.

“I feel it’s inappropriate to have to defend myself. I’m defending my home. I want the Enterprise lady to write that down. I don’t want to get a bear killed. We’re three old ladies who don’t want a bear to come into the house. We can’t run fast. So many people have come by, and I resent it that they think we’re cruel, thoughtless bear killers.”

This is part of the August 14, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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