Our First Run-in with Mountain Wildlife AND IT WAS A BEAR

big brown bear in the trash

If you follow me on Instagram… or even Twitter or facebook, you may have seen the photos I posted on Saturday night after a little run-in with A HUGE BROWN BEAR right in our driveway, dining in our trash like he had a reservation. The night’s special: Fish Pasta.

But let me start from the beginning…

Last week when the husband’s uncle was staying with us, fixing up our house, working on our electrical boxes and installing landscape lighting in our yard, he cooked his signature Italian dish of pasta with FISH, sauteed in peppers, and topped with marinara sauce for dinner one night. And it was delish! We had two tupperware containers in the fridge full of leftovers and barely put a dent in them in the days that followed. Early Thursday morning, the husband drove Billy back home to LA, met up with his friend Ronnie, and boarded a plane that flew them to Detroit to catch a few Tigers games, leaving me and the dogs behind.

Friday morning, after walking and feeding the dogs, I cleaned up the house a little in preparation for my mom who was arriving later in the day to keep me company until the husband returned home on Sunday afternoon. This is when I also cleaned out the fridge, dumped the leftover FISH and pasta into the garbage, among other foodstuffs, tied up the bag and carried it and the recyclables down through the garage and into the trash bins, which line the outer wall.

I thought for a moment about all the food I was leaving out and how it may not be such a great idea given the mountainous location we live in, but decided that since we had done it for eight months now without incident, it wouldn’t be a problem. So I covered the bin with the lid, secured it, and walked back in and shut the garage door without another thought.

My mom arrived that afternoon, we visited, walked the dogs, cooked dinner, and went about our evening and all was merry. When I woke up on Saturday morning, I put LeRoy’s harness on and walked him down and around the garage area and didn’t notice our trash lying on the ground until LeRoy started pulling at the leash, trying to get it. Gross, I thought… then finished walking him and returned to the house to get supplies to clean up the mess.

I went back down and found one of our four trash bins knocked over and lying next to it, the empty bags that once contained the RAW FISH before we cooked it, still filled with old smelly fish juices, and tossed them back into the bin before standing it upright again. EW. Then about ten feet away and on the dirt next to our driveway, was the single bag of trash that I had thrown into the bin the day prior, ripped open at the bottom with a food mess eaten out of it.

It was surprisingly tidy though. The mess was contained within a two foot circumference of the trash bag and though I noticed all the fish and pasta gone, lettuce, bread, and bananas remained, which I thought was odd. I cleaned it all up by adding it to the half-full bag of trash I now had from the kitchen, which of course contained MORE FOOD from the day before, wrapped it all up, tied a new knot and threw it back in the bin. Again, I put the lid on, walked in and shut the garage door and forgot about it.

Later that morning I chatted with the husband from Detroit about the mess and we just sort of assumed a few raccoons got into the trash. The thought of an actual bear at the time seemed the more ridiculous guess since we hadn’t encountered one and neither had any of our neighbors in the 24 years they’ve lived up here.

My mom and I had a lovely and relaxing day and at dusk we took LeRoy out for a final walk of the evening. And since my mom was suddenly obsessed with seeing our regular bats in the sky, we decided to take a walk around the two lanes we live on to hopefully spot a few creatures of the night.

Even though we had a heavy duty flashlight with us, we ARE high up in the mountains and other than few homes here and there lit up with a few landscape or patio lights, it’s REALLY DARK on the lanes. And even with the new landscape lighting surrounding OUR house, it’s not as bright as you may think when there are no city lights around either. You can still look up and see a night sky full of bright and twinkling stars, but you cannot see a foot ahead of you.

As we walked deeper into the darkness, I began to get a little TERRIFIED of possibly LARGE coyotes hiding in the hills above and below, so I picked LeRoy up and carried him much of the way back home. I also thought it smart to stomp my feet as we walked, making loud noises with my shoes and talking loudly, just in case there were any critters nearby, that I MIGHT keep them away from us.

We returned home with no problems and settled into the pillows on the couch to watch Oprah’s Master Class with Maya Angelou {because, LOVE}. A few minutes into it, we opened a window for a little airflow and then about 10 minutes later I heard a BOOM.

My first thought was TRASH BIN, our visitor had returned, but I blew it off thinking it was too loud to be the plastic bin falling over and assumed it was a car or anything else… but minutes later the strongest FISH SMELL came wafting in through the window. After checking the dogs {because obviously, poop}, I went to my office window that is above the garage and looks out over the driveway below and again saw the white plastic trash bag on the dirt as I did earlier that morning.

But to the side of it… right next to and above and around this plastic bag, I suddenly made out a VERY LARGE AND LOOMING SHADOW in the darkness surround. WTFWOMGWTHF!??!?!?!

I ran back to the living room WHISPER-YELLING to my mom who was still sitting on the couch, to grab the flashlight! we used earlier on our walk, while I grabbed my phone and ran back over to the window in my office. It wasn’t really until my mom shined the flashlight down onto the big shadow that we realized…

IT WAS INDEED A GIANT BROWN BEAR.

big brown bear

And then I may have lost it a little bit…

OMFG MOM, THERE’S A FUCKING BEAR OUTSIDE THE WINDOW!

A FUCKING BEAR, MOM!!!!!

I whisper-screamed this about ONE HUNDRED TIMES in the seconds that followed.

As my mom flashed the light on him, or her, I snapped my iPhone vigorously trying to capture photos…

Though most looked like some sort of bad Bigfoot pictures on a History Channel special, I managed to get a few good ones before the bear stopped eating the trash, slowly turned, lumbered around the electrical pole, onto the driveway and THEN WALKED DIRECTLY TOWARD US IN THE HOUSE!!!

AS HE LOOKED UP AT US IN THE WINDOW, LIKE HE WANTED TO EAT US, I grabbed the flashlight and whisper-screamed at my mom to TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF!!! HE’S COMING FOR US!!!!!

Why? She asked me all non-chalantly, pulling the flashlight from me and trying to shine it down.

BECAUSE THE BEAR, MOM… THE FUCKING BEAR IS WALKING TOWARD THE LIGHT AND WE ARE THE LIGHT!!!! That’s why, MOM!!! He’s going to EAT us!!!

As the spotlight on him diminished, the bear turned back toward the bag of food in the dirt, sniffed around, and then started slowly up the road towards our FRONT DOOR…

OUR FRONT DOOR!!! The front door WHICH IS ON GROUND LEVEL, NOT A STORY ABOVE LIKE MY OFFICE!!! LEVEL GROUND!!!

I ran into the living room and peeked just an eyeball out the curtain of the front window next to the front door so the bear couldn’t see any movement or light.

My mom comes running over, OPENS THE CURTAIN UP FULLY and SHINES THE FLASHLIGHT OUT AT HIM AGAIN.

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM-A… whisper-yelling and grabbing at her… GIMMMMEE THAT FUCKING FLASHILIGHT!!!!

What?!?!? Why? my mom asks.

If he walked toward the light when we were two stories above him, HE WOULD CERTAINLY WALK TOWARD THE LIGHT AGAIN AND BUST THROUGH THE WINDOW OR THE FRONT DOOR!!! And we are RIGHT HERE!

OF course, I was maybe a bit irrational, but I thought the light would deter the bear and make him walk AWAY rather than LURE HIM TOWARDS US.

Growing up in LA, living in just about every city in the Valley, in the heart of Hollywood, and in the Hollywood Hills MY ENTIRE LIFE, I’d seen a few small coyotes, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels that literally knocked on the door and took bread out of my hand at breakfast.

When we saw our first coyote here, that was FIVE TIMES THE SIZE OF ANY COYOTE I’d ever seen, I got scared and wanted to return home from our hike IMMEDIATELY. When I SAW AN ACTUAL LIVING HUGE BEAR FROM A WINDOW IN MY HOUSE, THAT WASN’T A MOVIE ACTOR BEAR, I JUST ABOUT LOST IT.

The bear lumbered slowly up the road as we watched, and that was the last we saw of him. This happened at around 10pm, just an hour and a half after we came in from our walk! My hope to fall asleep early was diminished by now as I paced around the house amped on adrenaline {with LeRoy following close behind}, I relayed and replayed the story out to the husband on the phone in Detroit, texted friends, and Instagramming photos.

My mom and I must have gone back to my office window to check on the crime scene 100 times throughout the remainder of the night and I WAS SURE that every time I looked out ANY WINDOW of our house, the bear would be there, staring back at me, like he had earlier when the light was shining on him. In fact, I could’t get his face out of my mind and woke up throughout the night thinking about it.

Though I’m 100% positive it was the stank leftover fish juice & remains of the raw fish bags that had attracted the bear to our spot, now he knows where we live and from what I’d heard about bears, thought we’d for sure see him come around looking for the nightly specials for quite some time. But as the following day came to an end, I found myself on my knees, staring out my office window, peering over the driveway into the darkness to see if he’d return. And the longer he didn’t, the more I wanted him to.

Sure I was terrified when I saw him the night prior, LIKE THOUGHT WE WERE ALL GOING TO DIE, terrified but the husband missed the whole thing and I so wanted him to get to see the bear too. I think I wanted him to see the bear more than he actually wanted to see the bear, but at the end of the night without a trace, and looking at these photos, it almost felt like it wasn’t real. I’m just so happy my mom was there as a witness, AND BECAUSE IF I WAS HOME ALONE, I LITERALLY WOULD HAVE FREAKED THE FUCK OUT and to shine the light down so I could snap some photos. I’m not sure anyone would believe me otherwise 🙂


Looking down from my office window in broad daylight… where the bear was the night before.


Below | the non-mess, mess, the bear made. I was actually surprised at how tidy he left the place. It look like he knocked the exact bin over he wanted, picked up the bag from the bin, carried it over to the dirt, ripped the bottom and ate what he wanted, left the rest. There was no other mess really.

Below | the distance from the open garage door {where I’m standing} out to the driveway.

My Instagram Photos…

big brown bear big brown bear

And in reality, bears are dangerous and this one was BIG. And though he hasn’t returned again, chances are higher now that he just might. So we’ll have to be extra careful when disposing of food waste, especially on trash night. Hopefully, the bear will soon realize there’s no more fish for him here and forget about us. I honestly don’t want any harm to come to the bear, but I also don’t want any harm to come to us either.

Does anyone have any tips JUST IN CASE a bear ever comes into our house? After searching on the internet a little, our findings were not very helpful, and obviously I’d rather not harm the bear if I don’t have to.

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LA native & lifestyle blogger Maegan Tintari writes daily at ...love Maegan.com sharing beauty & style secrets, including fashion DIYs, how-to nail art manicures, hair tutorials, recipes & home decorating ideas, as well as a look into her personal life, her journey & battle with infertility & recent relocation to the mountains by a lake in search of a better life with her adorable French Bulldog brothers, Trevor and Randy.

18 Comments

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    Yeah, my mom would say to triple Ziploc bag that shit first.

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    oh what an adventure maegan, you are very brave

  • GRIT AND GLAMOUR

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    Yes, triple bag fish for sure, and keep your trash bin in the garage until the morning of trash pickup! It sucks to have to keep it in the garage, but it’s better and safer for you and the dogs. At least you have a garage and can have a bin in it instead of worrying about trying to keep it in the house or something!

    PS: Scary, yes, but riveting to read! I started in the car on the away to work (bad, I know) and was irritated when I hit traffic and had to stop and finish reading after I got out of my car.

  • TJ

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    Gotta say my first thought was ‘how frigging awesome!’. However, I would not dispose of any food garbage in the outside bins until trash day. Do you have any airtight receptacles you could use to store it until then?

  • CodeOverdressed

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    OMG! I have to confess at first I was like woooooah I want to see a bear that close, but after reading your story, I’m glad cats are the only thing looking into my trash! This is quite a story girl!

    Cee. ♥
    Code Overdressed

  • Rachael

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    Before you tie up your trash bag to put it outside, sprinkle Comet cleaning powder on top of the trash. Bears won’t go near it. This is tried, tested and true, straight from Canada – I see plenty of bears every year, but they don’t touch my garbage.
    Also your idea to stomp your feet and make noise on your way home was a good one. The only reason to fear a bear is if you are between it and its cub, otherwise yelling and making loud noises will usually get it to lumber away.

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I recall posting warning you (a couple of weeks ago?) of late-night walks…..I remember at the time that I was being ‘negative’, but thought, well it’s best to warn ahead of time. Better to be safe than sorry. You might want to keep your garbage cans in your garage and SPRAY the inside and outside of the cans with original Listerine mouthwash. Don’t use anything dangerous/toxic. That’s what I do to ward off raccoons around here. Not to scare you even more, but there could be mountain lions out there at night, so, again, I wouldn’t ever walk after dark in the mountains. And very hungry mountain lions are very used to jumping and eating large deer. Sorry, but I had to throw that in the mix.

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    Yes, triple zip-lock the smelly fish is a good idea. Spray the outside of the bag with Listerine, then put it in a strong thick garbage bag. The spray scent won’t damage the bear’s nose and lungs when sniffing as a powder might. Anyway, for a few weeks, keep the cans inside your garage. That way he will forget about your house and lurk around somewhere else.

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I live in Alaska where bears are very much the norm. We aren’t even allowed to put our garbage out until the day of for that very reason (no convenient night before). Bear proof trash cans would be good, but mainly conscientious behavior as these are wild and dangerous animals. If they know they can find a quick meal at your place (and not just fish, they will eat anything!) they will come back looking for more. They’re smart.
    I’m sure this is a far cry from LA living, but it does make for some good stories, huh?
    Stay safe! Don’t be scared just be bear aware 🙂

    Regards from AK!

  • Budget Splurge Beauty

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I’m glad this contained an appropriate amount of ‘cursing’ because I don’t think there’s a way to see a BEAR in your DRIVEWAY without a heavy dose of it. Haha I’m glad your safe but also glad you got pictures to share the story 🙂

  • Liz

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I know this sounds gross, but PLEASE put your fish/meat leftovers and fish/meat parts in a double or triple bagged trash bag and stick it in the freezer until it’s trash day. It’s the smell that attracts them. None of your frozen food will get contaminated. Have done this for years. We can’t keep our food out because it’s 90+ degrees outside in the summer! Also, get a garbage disposal for your sink. You can put everything in there except for bones.

    Also, invest in a bear “proof” trash can. There are ones out there that are hard for them to open.

  • Megan

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I’d recommend getting a metal locker for your bins, it will keep bears out, but also smaller, messier animals such as racoons and coyotes.

    As far as bears coming into your house, I don’t think I’ve ever heard tales of that happening, but if you’re really worried, keep a can of bear spray accessible maybe?

  • Anonymous

    August 5, 2013 | Reply

    I know a lot of people will poo poo this BUT I say mace or bear repellant pepper spray as well, it might make you a little more comfortable on your walks during the day. I’ve never used one but lots of people here in colorado have them sooo…..also please don’t let this take away the excitement and freedom you have in your new home. Rachel

  • Jamie Saloff

    August 6, 2013 | Reply

    I had this worry for a long time that a bear would come into our cottage, even though where we live is not a prime bear habitat. A friend shared with me the meaning of bear and said that whenever I worried about it, I should remember bear traits. You can read about bear in the Ted Andrews book. I found an excerpt of it here: http://spiritlodge.yuku.com/topic/1003#.UgBLeGRATB8

  • Anonymous

    August 6, 2013 | Reply

    I live in Canada so bear sightings are common. It can pretty much happen anywhere. You have to be really careful with trash. Look into getting a locked garbage. But just read up and be careful and maybe bear spray or something? I have actually seen one near the beach in broad daylight as it’s near a forest.

  • sara

    August 6, 2013 | Reply

    Living in Vancouver, we’d get bears in our yard and trash too. Echoing what people said about keeping your garbage bins in the garage until pick up day and being careful with the dogs being let out at night. We have a Bear Line, which is a hotline for sightings so they can keep track of where bears have been sighted, if they are getting to close to civilization and whether they need to be displaced. They try to do it as humanely as possible here and are usually linked with the parks board or humane society. Something you might want to look into.

  • A.Co

    August 6, 2013 | Reply

    HOLY FACK!!!!! That’s INSANE, what a story and what a night!!!!!

    I’m glad you’re mom was there with you, lol, that’s crazy… so scary that you got home just half an hour before all this. WHOA.

  • Caroline, No.

    August 7, 2013 | Reply

    I just LOL’d at all of this, especially the whisper screaming! Jeez. Scary. Cute though. I’m sure you’ll do the necessary to try to keep him away now! x

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