Sheriff’s deputies outside of Denver, Colorado, recently responded to a bearly believable call: reports that a black bear had somehow locked itself inside a car.
The bizarre encounter—filmed and posted to YouTube by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on July 12—begins with deputies approaching the vehicle, a gray Subaru parked at a residence in Golden, Colorado. The responders seem baffled by the situation.
“Okay, how did he get in?” one deputy said as he approached the vehicle. “I don’t see a broken window.”
Jenny Fulton, the public information officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, says that the bear entered the closed but unlocked vehicle sometime on the night of July 11.
The curious bear set off the car’s alarm, but the homeowner didn’t go out to investigate until the following morning. After several hours of the bear tearing apart the car’s interior, the interior door handles were rendered useless—effectively locking the bear in the car.
Within 15 minutes, the deputies managed to unlatch the vehicle’s hatch safely, allowing the black bear to scamper into the surrounding woods.
“It’s just a strange situation,” says Fulton.
While the bear’s Houdini-esque entry of the car is unusual, Colorado wildlife officials regularly deal with reports of human-bear encounters. The state is home to between 17,000 to 20,000 black bears, and Colorado’s rapid human population growth has brought with it increased development near bear habitat—drawing the two species into increasingly close quarters.
Matt Robbins, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s public information officer, says that each year, Colorado faces a four-percent increase in the number of “human-bear conflicts,” or potentially threatening situations where a bear came in contact or proximity with a human being.
“At least twice a year, we see bears getting into cars,” he says. “We encourage campers and people close to bear habitats to lock their doors, [since] bears are extremely bright.”
The challenge is bigger than cars: Bears’ keen sense of smell draws them to urban corridors, says Robbins, forcing Colorado wildlife officials to relocate or euthanize bears that become too habituated to human food and garbage.
To help fight the tide of human-bear encounters, Robbins and Fulton urge people to keep as little food waste and garbage outside as possible, and to keep a safe distance.
“Part of our responsibility of living with our natural resources is to provide them space and to minimize attractants,” says Robbins. “If you see wildlife, you want to give them distance.”
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