It’s a holiday tradition for many Canadian homes to be called on in the middle of the night by a chubby, hairy-faced visitor who gobbles up Christmas cookies.
Usually that visitor wears a red suit, delivers gifts and is not a bear.
But that wasn’t the case for Nanaimo resident Siobahn Macphail, who was visited by a pair of furry cookie hunters early Tuesday morning.
Macphail said she was up late watching television around 3 a.m. when she heard a noise from outside.
When she pulled the curtain from the window, she spotted a pair of black bear cubs digging through her trash.
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That caught the bears’ attention, and one of them came up on her deck, stood up on its hind legs and looked at her through the window before the pair scampered around her house to a stand-up freezer she keeps outside.
It didn’t take much for the duo to crack the unit open, looking for snacks.
“I stood there for a minute with my hands on my head, like, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to get the bear out of my freezer?'” Macphail said.
“They’re very smart.”
The freezer had some chicken in it, along with several tins of Macphail’s homemade peanut butter Christmas cookies, which she said the bears appeared to be most interested in.
The cubs got the tins out, but weren’t able to get into the goodies before she was able to scare them away.
“I shook the front door and I banged on the window a whole bunch, hoping my kids wouldn’t wake up, and it worked,” she said.
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Macphail said the pair sauntered out of her yard, stopping to dig through the garbage once more on their way out.
The next day, she discovered scratches on the freezer and muddy footprints inside.
The cubs may belong to a black bear sow that Macphail said is known to frequent the area with her offspring, but she said there was no sign of the mother.
Conservation Officer Service (COS) Insp. Ben York said officers did attend a report of the bears, and that the cookie caper is a reminder for residents to make sure they’re being bear aware.
“We do know we have bears active throughout Vancouver Island, so we are still asking people to keep their attractants locked up and secure … Even though most of them should be asleep right now they are not,” he said.
“Those animals have already learned that people mean food, so it just makes it more likely that they’ll cause damage trying to get at that food.”
York said the COS won’t try and relocate the bears because of how late in the season it is, and that the hope is they’ll hibernate and break the behaviour over the winter.
Macphail says she’s taken the lesson to heart, and is now ensuring the outdoor freezer is always locked.