I KNEW BETTER. I'd had a bear break into the trailer a couple of summers ago. I'd left the door unlocked; she'd climbed in, opened the cupboard above the fridge, cleaned it of its contents, and continued on her way. She didn't get into the fridge — that time. Or break anything. The only mess she'd left was down the hillside, on the ground: an empty marshmallow bag, scraps of cardboard from a box of graham crackers, and such—and a good dark pile of poop.
This time, after a recent epic foray across southern Utah to New Mexico and back, we'd cleaned out the cupboards. But we hadn't quite gotten around to cleaning out the fridge. And again I'd failed to lock the trailer door. (Which oversight, in retrospect, may actually have saved the door.)
The flush-mount handles on a Norcold 3-way RV refrigerator had always seemed to me about as paw thwarting as the tourist-proof latches on a bear-proof trash can. The thing isn't even really recognizable (to humans) as a refrigerator, especially camouflaged as ours is with door panels cut from an old sheet metal sign. But, as our local "bear whisperer" Steve Searles would tell me a few days later, the bears are now into their final 60-day binge leading up to hibernation. Plus, he added, "these guys can smell right through an unopened beer can."
It was about 4:30 in the morning when my neighbor heard what she thought was me rummaging around in the garage. (That's odd, she thought.) It was about three hours later, as I emerged blinking and only half-caffeinated to take the dog for his morning constitutional, that I saw the first sign of foul play in the form of broken glass from a peanut butter jar. I haven't seen this particular bear (yet). But here are the ingredients of his/her breakfast:
1 family-size jar crunchy peanut butter
4 sticks frozen unsalted sweet cream butter
1/2 lb. longhorn-style colby cheddar cheese
1/2 loaf whole grain whole wheat bread
1/2 jar seedless blackberry jam
32 oz tomato ketchup
20 oz organic Midnight Moo chocolate-flavored syrup
14 oz California seedless raisins
2 Incredible Hulk popsicles
Interestingly, he/she opted not to partake of the organic chipotle salsa, or the corn salsa, or the fire-roasted tomatillo salsa, or the Brother Bru-Bru's African hot pepper sauce, or the volcanic horseradish mustard. And — I believe out of respect for his/her hosts — he/she also steered clear the unopened bottle of Stag's Leap 2007 petite syrah that I'd been saving for some happy future confluence of spare time and marital armistice.
Three bears have been shot recently in June Lake for similarly brazen breaking, entering, and gorging (with attendant property damage and loss of sleep and peace of mind). Another charged a local doctor during a weekend birthday campout, also in June Lake, and ultimately made off into the darkness with a pound of smoked salmon and other delicacies.
There is no question that our guest will be back in search of more Midnight Moo. For now, though, the front door to the house will be deadbolted, the dog positioned strategically at the entrance to the kitchen, and the trailer relocated to an undisclosed location in the desert.