(Metro Creative photo)

Valley Voices: A Bear’s Picnic

The following is a story written by Barriere resident Donna Kibble during the fall of 2003. It recounts her family’s experience after returning home to their property on Barriere Lakes Road from an eight day evacuation due to the McLure Wildfire.

If we had stopped in Barriere on our way home, we would have heard about our bears before we got there. Kind neighbours had been checking on our place while we were evacuated and had already found the mess, and the story had spread around town.

But we had been evacuated for eight days and were in a hurry to get home.

When we left our home on Aug. 1, 2003, I wondered about the bag of garbage that we didn’t have room for in the car. Taking the bag of stinky garbage would mean leaving the cat or the dog or the chickens that we had piled in my small car. Sooo… I put it into the small spare bedroom that always seems to get junk piled in it.

We finally met up with John in Kamloops and I told him I was concerned about the garbage, as we had a bear hanging around the end of our driveway eating the few berries that were there.

John said, “I would love to come home to find bear (poop) on the kitchen floor because that would mean our house was still standing.”

However, the mess that the bear and his two friends made in the kitchen was a lot more than we had anticipated. We figure the first bear came in, and then he invited his friends over for a feast later on.

It was obvious when we drove into the yard that we had company.

The window of the spare room was broken, and pillows and other things were all over the ground outside it.

And of course the now-ravaged bag of garbage.

The bear had gone in that window and had come out another bedroom window next to it. From then on they just came in and out the French doors.

A really good push from a very large bear had managed to open them with little structural damage.

The floor in the kitchen was piled about a foot high with everything that had been in my kitchen cupboards.

That bear had opened the side-by-side fridge without making even a scratch on the outside, but had ripped out the ice maker and demolished all the food inside.

Anything he and his partners in crime hadn’t eaten was left in a huge mess on the floor. Mixed with all the food from my cupboards, the cookbooks, dishes and toaster, was all the water from the fridge and the mud from the bears’ feet.

The yogurt in plastic tubes was a real big hit, and we found the tubes had been deposited all around our yard. At least they had only left “deposits” outside.

Another big favourite was blackberry jam – the tin shone on the inside. All tins of food had either been ripped open and eaten or left with puncture holes in them.

When we walked on the floor it was hard to tell what you were stepping on – everything crunched. Raw pasta was mixed with oatmeal, cereal, broken glass, flour, sugar, canned food, fridge parts, mud and pieces of a broken chair. Maybe we should call this Goldilocks and The Three Bears – without Goldilocks.

We got garbage bags and a shovel, and started to clean up. Many bags of garbage later, we came upon what finally started to get me annoyed. Corn syrup mixed with red food colouring.

When I think what was in that cupboard I imagine what their favourite probably was.

I bet it was the five-pound blocks of bakers chocolate and white chocolate that was in the top cupboard.

When all the mess was cleaned up we were amazed that there was little actual damage. Except for some broken dishes, a broken chair and two cupboard doors, things were in good shape. We were actually able to put the fridge back together, with a big tooth mark in one of the door trays, and we were able to keep the fridge as the bears left the doors open.

Other rooms had been looked into but little damage was done there. The top shelf of my desk had been swiped and I had an even bigger disaster on my desk than usual.

There were very large muddy footprints on the living room floor and when I picked up a bottle of bleach that was sitting in the bathroom sink, bleach ran out of the holes that a large claw had made.

In the spare room where I had left the bag of garbage, the bear had fun destroying a large bag of flour, as it had been shaken all over the room.

It took us about three days to finally get the mess cleaned up, but John was right – at least we had a home to come to.

Our sympathy goes out to the people who were not so fortunate as our family, and we wish all the best for them in the future.

– Donna Kibble, September 20, 2003

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bc wildfiresbearsDistrict of BarriereNorth Thompson Valley