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Old 07-18-2009, 06:53 PM   #1
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1966 24' Tradewind
Oak View , California
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Has Anyone Else Had a Bear Climb In Their Airstream?

And I am talking about when you are also inside of it at the same time.....
Picture this, (A true story!)
A woman alone...out in the mountains of Ojai, California, the only trailer there in the 3AM.
The Labs woke me up barking, I told them to quiet down, don't fuss about the coyotes, go back to sleep. Then my female, Vige, standing on my bed where she usually sleeps, is glued to the window and changes her bark to an unearthly sound that could possibly preclude a tornado. I am instantly awake, eyes wide open. I switch on the big Mag Lite and there, directly below my bedroom window in front of me, is THE biggest bear I have ever seen. In a previous life I was a backpacking guide, I have seen a lot of bears..this guy is huge. I flash the light around, yell at it to take off, meanwhile the two dogs are doing cartwheels off the walls. It has been 102 degrees for the past week and every window is open letting in the fragrance of Eau de bear to whip them into a manic frenzy. This bear isn't even flinching, he just silently stares me down. After a bit of this to set me a little on edge, he wanders slowly around towards the back of the trailer.
I sidestep fast from the bed to the bathroom, and there he is again, but this time so close, even I can smell him. My entreaties for him to leave my landscape are now in earnest. I grab my cell phone to hit the number of a friend camping a few canyons beyond me; more company is what I really would like at this moment. Cell service up here is quite ephemeral, I heard them say, "Hello," and instantly, the line goes dead. I am redialing just as fast as I can, over and over, with the same result. The back of my mind is thinking, remember, you have planned for an encounter like this, more noise would be better. I grab the car keys to hit the panic button and set off the car alarm right as he stands up to his full height, quite emphatically eyeball to eyeball. I push the button and nothing happens. Push, push, push, PUSH; nothing happens. BOOM!! The entire bathroom screen comes flying towards me with a flick of his wrist. (I know by now some of you are wondering why I haven't shut the windows. This is an old 1965 model with rickety, cranky, tiny cranks, that take me fifteen minutes per window even under much more pleasant circumstances. Yes, I have siliconed them.) I drop the phone in surprise, but grab the pepper spray next, aim point blank with his nose three feet away. Flick off the safety and push the button. Nothing happens. I hear my voice going octaves higher than any previous history. My male lab, Mike, is trying to climb the toilet past me and hurl himself through the window. That does not sit well with me and I am trying to hold him back despite the fact that he weighs 80 lbs and I weigh 110 and for once my stubborness has found an appropriate outlet. With the other hand, I am beating the large Mag Lite back and forth very fast and very loudly against the metal frames of the window and wondering where on earth I put the Marine air horn cannister. Unbelievably, he goes back down on the ground. Unfortunately, it was what I believe, is called a feint. Revised reality is the appearance of those very large front legs coming, oh my God, right in through the window, head following quickly as a close second.
This is pretty much where I at last throw in the towel, one hand switches firmly back to the car keys while every last ounce of my energy is segued into removing the three prior owners swiftly off the property.
However, my dogs, as I open the front door, are once again, having hearing problems. "In the car! In the car!," was somehow misconstrued into "Get the bear! Get the bear!," perhaps due to my high decibel level. I however, chose to head for the car, parked in front of the trailer. As a final offering, I threw open two car doors for them, which then finally set off the car alarm. There was intense barking going on at the back of the trailer, then Vige came flying into the car. Just then, like in the movies, or that last hand that slaps down all the Aces, here comes the Cavalry. Car lights appear on the horizon. My heart stops though, when I realize I hear no more barking, no noise except the car alarm and I am too afraid to go see around the corner. I call and call for Mike. The truck pulls up behind the trailer with headlights blaring, Mike shows up out of the blue from a totally different direction, I sneak a look and the bear is gone.
Apparently when the phone hit the floor, cell service suddenly improved even though all he ever heard was, "Get out of here, get out of here!", which sounded a bit fishy from me at 3AM and off he went.
I needed a little respite, locked up all the windows and left the Airstream to fend for herself, then followed along to the other campsite to watch the sun come up.
Epilogue: After the day had gotten a firm start and my heart was more calm, I went back to investigate for any further repercussions. On one side of the trailer the bear left his indelible signature of claw marks from both paws reaching up, as if to attempt climbing on top the trailer. I am 5'7" and standing on tiptoe, can barely reach the top of the marks. Windows were intact, but on both sides of each one, I found giant bear prints where he had stood up to make his own inquiry into possible gustavory satisfaction while we lay sleeping. Vige must have made a sudden nose to nose aquaintance as our window was being checked and induced her hitherto unknown voice which, thank God, brought me to my senses. She can henceforth sleep perpendicular to me whenever she pleases, hogging most all the bed, without any interference on my part. Mike, as always, due to his big heart, big body and valor in battle, remains in complete control of the entire front sofa. (Both came out totally unscathed....)
I offer up this story, at once, to all of you, (this just happened last night!) revealing my shortcomings in testing my equipment, in hopes that it will give that extra jab to recheck yours and hopefully reduce the number of heartpounding moments that I am ever so happy to have behind me.
PS This is my first year owning a trailer but during this time, this place has been where I have spent three to four days of every week and is very familiar to me. I have seen only one very small bear for about 30 seconds in all that time. Also when this occurred, I was doing a one nighter, brought no food with me and everything already in the trailer was dried or canned. All I can guess is the heat brought him down looking for water, then he maybe he was looking over the other options at the checkout stand.
I would love to hear what other campers have been through and how they dealt with it....

Carol Clarke
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:21 PM   #2
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Thanks Carol for telling your story and telling it very well. Nothing like that has ever happened to us. It does confirm that my decision not to sleep with the windows open is a good decision.

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Old 07-18-2009, 07:23 PM   #3
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Smile glad.....your safe....

i will bet your heart is still just a beating away...glad your safe...
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:23 PM   #4

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Hell-of-a forth post, glad no one was hurt, two or four legger's.

ps..You write good Girl
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:42 PM   #5
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Yikes! I've had quite a few bear encounters (both black bears and brown / grizzly) while fishing, hiking, camping, etc. But none in the Airstream - yet. Seems to me you are very lucky.

You obviously did a lot of the right things under extreme pressure, but most of it didn't seem to discourage the bear at all. I have bear spray, but have my doubts about its effectiveness - yours seems to have malfunctioned, and of course that did no good at all. I wonder if the dog(s), noise, arriving vehicle, etc. scared the bear off, or whether he just got bored and took a stroll.

Most of the professional guides I know have learned to expect trouble in bear country, and for most, their prescription is a 12 gauge pump stuffed full of slugs. But a wounded, not-dead bear is a fearsome creature indeed, and a point-blank shootout with a bear would at best be a chancy affair.

I think you were very lucky indeed.
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Old 07-18-2009, 08:14 PM   #6
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Sounds like an "interesting" evening. As a former dog trainer the one thing i focused on was that you noticed the elevated pitch of your voice. That will stress a dog.

What does a puppy do when it is stressed? It lets out a high pitched yelp for help. Sometimes people excite (stressed excitement) a dog when trying to sooth it because they raise the pitch of the voice and talk like we would to a human infant.

There is a very good chance that the presence of the dogs had a lot to do with ol Smoky leaving. Bears are not be fans of their cousins the dogs. Especially since there was more than one dog.

I for one am relieved to hear of your escape. Brown Bears are nothing to get into a p!44!ng contest with.

Now your AS has unique battle scars as opposed to the oops dents most of us have; and you have one H of a "war story" to tell for the rest of your life.
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Old 07-18-2009, 08:16 PM   #7
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Great story, well told!

A whole bunch of years ago... more than I care to confess... a good friend and I stayed in a campground on the east side of Yosemite someplace on the back side of Monitor Pass, we were regaled of a story of three hunters up from L.A. in a pickup camper. Apparently they'd put a slab of breakfast bacon on the block of ice in their ice box. During the night, a very large brown bear decided that bacon smell on the dripping melted water smelled like breakfast to him too... so... at 3am or so, he used his paws to open their pickup camper like a sardine can, shredded the built-in ice box, and had himself a bacon feast. Of course the three intrepid campers were sound asleep and awakened quite rudely by the rending of metal camper siding... all three fled through the back door and were quite uninjured (except for their pride). The trio reportedly packed up and headed back to L.A. in their damaged camper as soon as the bear left.

Campers (regardless of construction) really don't present much in the way of a barrier when a determined bear wants in.

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Old 07-18-2009, 08:16 PM   #8
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One more thing, I agree with what was said about a point blank shoot out with a Browny. A chancy affair even with a well chosen firearm. Though if you did a penetrator round (solid nosed, thick jacket) as opposed to a shocking round (hollow point) would serve you better against that type of critter.
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:08 AM   #9
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Good Lord!!! Glad you are safe!
Find a need and fill it.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:34 AM   #10
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Scary stuff!!! Glad you're all right. My wife had a close encounter with a bear as a child and that's the main reason why we longer tent camp. Of course, if a bear wanted to he could open up an Airstream like a sardine can, but at least it affords you a little protection and time to grab a firearm or repellent or call for help.
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:38 AM   #11
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ont , Ontario
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wow what an experience!!! the fact that that bear was still interested in you even with two dogs barking at him through the window is a litte unnerving!!! glad you and your doggies (dog-guardian angels) are safe!!!!
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:15 AM   #12
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Argh. And we sleep right next to a big screen door every night smack in the middle of bear country.

Oh, yeah, we've been "visited" before, but they didn't make it into the house or into any rigs here. Thankfully, the house is no longer in the path that leads from the mountains to our west towards the village's old outdoor garbage storage area. (They now store it in an enclosed building before it's hauled off.)

Still, no longer having our two canine early warning alarms, maybe we should make an effort to find our firearm. It's around here someplace. And someplace else are some bullets, too.

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Old 07-19-2009, 08:18 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Smokin Camel View Post
if you did a penetrator round (solid nosed, thick jacket) as opposed to a shocking round (hollow point) would serve you better against that type of critter.
When the arms came through the window screen, I would have emptied the first clip of S&W .40 pausing only long enough to switch to the second clip.

Ojai's about 120 miles from us. Beautiful area.
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Old 07-19-2009, 09:35 AM   #14
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Not in the Airstream, but had one visit us at out cabin in the Adirondack Mountains this past weekend while we were out on the boat
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:06 AM   #15
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He did not climb in...but

Full timing in Alaska brings its own set of challenges. This black bear walking between two units in our RV park is only one. One of our dogs alerted us to the fact that something was going on and a lucky shot with the camera and then a blast from our air horn and the incident was ended. It is not unusual to see them in the park or in close proximity, but that is a long way from having one trying to get inside your house or RV. It has happened here a time or two, but usually when someone has been cooking something that a bear just can't live without.

If you are in bear country, follow the rules. It not only will save you, but it will save the bears too.
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:36 AM   #16
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When we used to live in the mountains west of Denver, there were always reports of bears getting in houses. It seems to me it was usually through a screen door. Bears are very, very strong, but they are also opportunistic, so unless they are starving, or they are in a feeding frenzy in the Fall, they look for the easy way to get food. They have poor eyesight, so a screen door may be invisible to them, and certainly is no barrier.

In the Spring and Fall, when we have the back door open and there's only a screen between us and the bears, I try to remember to close it in the evening. I don't open the bottom window of a first floor double hung window either to make it very difficult for bears to climb in. Our windows are up pretty high, but on some houses even the top sash is too low. We live on a pretty dry mesa, but it's only a mile to some water, bears are curious animals, and will follow deer for a meal. There's lots of deer here. I've never seen a bear or a mountain lion around our house, but three miles away in a well watered canyon, I have seen them.

Camping in a watered canyon in the midst of a desert or just a very dry area, is probably camping amongst game trails. Prey come to the canyon for water and plant life to eat. Predators come for prey. You get between them, or along the trail the resident bear uses, you are going to be checked out. The local mountain lion is also checking you out, but you will hardly ever see him or her, and it would be highly unusual for a mountain lion to come to a trailer unless you leave lunch outside—i.e, your dog. Coyotes also like lunch. Mountain lions hunt from high places—overhangs, large boulders and trees—not from the ground around trailers. Bears do whatever they want to, but generally avoid humans unless we encourage them to visit.

I'm guessing Carol's visitor was just curious. There's plenty of food in mid summer for bears although a little snack would have been appreciated. But if this bear has been fed by humans, it has been trained to be unafraid and to rely on humans and that will eventually result in its being killed. If humans habitually leave garbage at a campground, or the garbage containers are not bear proof, bears will figure it out. Considering how many bears there are and how some people ask for it (I don't mean Carol), there are very few bear attacks on humans. More often they make a mess of personal property.

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Old 07-19-2009, 12:32 PM   #17
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Wow, what a story. Great job telling it. I am glad you and the dogs are OK. Thanks to your story my wife and I have added to our list of equipment to have in our trailer and to keep them near the bed. Pepper Spray, Air Horn, and Car Keys. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old 07-19-2009, 01:45 PM   #18
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WOW my heart is still racing after reading your story out loud to my husband. We were just complaining about the racoon prints on our truck windshield from our stay in the NC mountains. We have bears too but nothing like what you were describing. When we were in Homer, Alaska we were warned over and over about the bears and wore whistles (now I know how ineffective they would be.) So glad you are ok and didn't have heart failure through all this. I am also glad that your dogs didn't make physical contact with the grumpy guy. Look forward to more of your stories-but hope they aren't quite as exciting!
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Old 07-19-2009, 01:52 PM   #19
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Can you say 44 automag, glad no one was hurt.
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Old 07-19-2009, 03:11 PM   #20
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Another note to my story... My friend asked me why I didn't use my fire extinguisher as a last ditch effort when all else failed. I never even thought of that. I think it would have been a good idea, plus after emptying the contents, you could plunk the thing out onto the bear's head if he was still in the vicinity. I keep several in the trailer and there was one right on the kitchen floor. I have turned back many bears who were seeking my freeze dried goodies during my backpacking days using rocks and logs. Unfortunately, I had nothing in reach except a few plastic bottles of Coke, which I nearly threw, but at the last second realized that if the thing sprayed on contact, all that sweet liquid might have been considered an appetizer by the bear.
After reading all the replies and discussion of firearms, which I am very comfortable and competent with, the only one I currently own (which I keep at home) is a small caliber show handgun which would have been as effective as a mosquito bite and might have made him more irritable. If I decide to pull a trigger, I want to be sure I am the only one left breathing. I would love to have a nice hefty handgun again since I travel alone to some pretty wild places, but it is not financially feasible right now.
The other problem is that my trailer is parked as a guest at this large private ranch who is owned by a very enthusiastic animal activist. He would be very upset if I made a reduction in the animal population here and I have no idea how I would dispose of the evidence. Well, maybe with a tow strap hooked to the car...
One more eerie thing. When I got into bed that night and was drifting off to sleep, I remembered that for the first time ever, I had forgotten to shut the front door. I got back up in the dark, went out and closed it. The bear made his visit about a half an hour later. I shudder to think how easily he could have popped in through the screen door and trapped us in the back. At least I know how fast that whole back screen pops out, one swift kick and out we go...
PS It is a good idea to leave a pair of sandles on the floor next to your bed at night, it is no fun to have my experience of running outside in the dark in your bare feet over all those sharp twigs and oak leaves. Believe me, there was no time to tie on a pair of shoes.
Thanks for all your replies, it is great having more shoulders to lean on....
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