Less than a month before Mammoth’s bears go into shutdown mode, some of them still have some shenanigans up their sleeves.
Early Thursday morning, Oct. 3, while overnight Vons employees were busy stocking shelves, a small, ursine agent provocateur that last spring was quite the troublemaker along Old Mammoth Road walked through an open front door and beelined his way smack into a bin of Honeycrisp apples.
Standing on his hind legs, the bear made short work of it before employees shooed him back out into the parking lot.
Rick Graham, the Vons store manager, said the smallish bear did no significant damage, but noted that the bear definitely seemed to have a great time.
Other bears around town hoodwinked some humans into thinking they were dead, but were just having an autumnal snooze by the side of the road.
But it was the Vons bear that got the most attention last week, for all the wrong reasons, according to Police Chief Dan Watson.
“This young bear, which has little fear of humans, has become accustomed to relying on people for food,” Watson said in a news release following the incident.
“He now knows how to get into Vons when the store is open and he’s previously entered homes to feast on pie. He is likely to return to Vons and if he isn’t properly conditioned to not rely on cars, houses, ice chests, and now supermarkets for food, he will become a problem bear and his future will be bleak.”
Employees at the store did their part and sent the bear out of the store without having to call on police or Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles.
“He came back for a few nights after that, but we haven’t seen him lately,” Graham said on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
This particular bear got into so much trouble early in the season that Searles sent out repeated requests for residents to lock up so as to save the bear’s life.
Now, he is part of a larger phenomenon.
“The bears are super busy right now,” Searles said in his regular update to the Town Council, which he made just hours before the little rogue raided Vons.
“The term describing what they’re going through is called hyperphagia, and depending on the body weight, and the size, they’re drinking about four to five gallons of water per day,” Searles said.
“They’re putting on tens of thousands of calories per 24 hours. A couple of calls we went on were for dead bears on the side of the road, but both bears had fallen over while they were walking and gone to sleep.
“They’re eating themselves into a coma. It’s kind of like us on Thanksgiving. We woke the bears up and they were just fine.”
Searles said Halloween night is the usual end of the bear season as the bears settle in for the winter.
Asked by council member Jo Bacon if the federal shutdown in the Lakes Basin meant more bears than usual were in town, Searles said no.
“They’re all here, in downtown Mammoth,” he said.
“The bears are locked down, basically, five or six days, by Halloween night. So we have that much time left.”
As for the little potential problem bear, there might be even less time than that, unless he—and the humans around him—straighten up and fly right.