CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. (MTN)—Among Crested Butte's many bear stories during recent weeks is one told by Paul Merck. He returned home late one evening to find a huge bear eating vanilla ice cream out of his refrigerator and freezer.
"He ate two-and-a-half gallons of vanilla ice cream but left me the chocolate, ate a full thing of butter, yogurt and cheddar cheese," Merck told the Crested Butte News. "But luckily he didn't drink my beer."
Merck told the newspaper that he instructed the bear to leave, and the bear complied, exiting the same window he had used to access the home. The bear managed to avoid breaking anything, though as might be expected, the kitchen was a mess.
Elsewhere in Crested Butte, a couple had put their children to bed and were watching television when they heard the door open. They said hello.
"When no one answered, I went to the top of the stairway and looked down and saw one of the biggest bears I've ever seen," said Channing Boucher. "I screamed like a stuck pig as loud as I could. My kids were in the bedroom four feet away from that bear. My heart was coming through my shirt."
Chased by the family dog, the 400-pound bear backed out of the door. Boucher told the News that the bear left a stink.
"They are the foulest-smelling creatures that walk the earth," he said. "He was in the house 10 seconds, and it just stunk."
Still Boucher considers himself lucky. The door was open, and the bear wasn't confused about how to get out. That was also the case when a bear crept into a house, apparently headed for the refrigerator.
"I screamed like a little girl. This bear's head was massive, and it was just seven feet away from me," said Dawne Belloise, who had just put down the telephone. "He snorted and backed out really fast."
Police tell the newspaper that at least 75 vehicles have been broken into this summer, as well as a dozen garages and at least five or six houses. Some $20,000 in property damage has been reported.
Some five or six bears are believed to be trying to grub food. Last year, the bears' acquisition of human food was easier, retrieved from trash containers without difficulty. But a new ordinance requires greater efforts to make garbage inaccessible.
One thing is clear: The lever-style of door handles, which bears can open, will become more rare, being replaced by more conventional circular door handles.