Bear gets trapped in Winter Park car, does over $4,000 in damage
Not long before the sun rose over the Continental Divide last Monday morning, Wanda Wunderlich was at her home in the Winter Park Highlands when she heard some noise from outside.
“We heard the horn honk,” Wunderlich explained. “That is what got us up to go outside.”
As Wunderlich walked outside to check her car, she noticed her dogs were barking and agitated.
Assuming she might have a bear roaming around her property, a common occurrence in the Highlands, Wunderlich headed towards her vehicle to check things out. She checked her driver’s side door and found it locked. As she headed back inside her son yelled down to her that a bear was in the car.
Wunderlich was skeptical at first but, after taking a closer look, she discovered her son was correct. There was a black bear inside her vehicle.
Her heart dropped.
“I had the kids hold the door and hold the dogs back,” Wunderlich said. “I opened the door and let him out. I went one direction and he went the other, thankfully.”
The Grand County resident said the bear simply ran off into the nearby woods, disappearing into the distance during the early morning hours.
She estimated the bear was in her vehicle for a few short minutes, but in that time it did significant damage to the interior. She is still waiting for an official figure from her insurance agent, but personally estimated the damage at around $4,000.
“When (the bear) jumped in, the car door closed behind him,” she explained. Her car door had been locked before she went to bed the prior night, but forgot that her passenger side door is malfunctioning and must be locked manually rather than electronically.
Wunderlich’s encounter with the bear came about one week after a similar incident occurred at her home.
“The dogs were barking and I knew a bear was there,” she said of the previous incident. “It walked to the garbage cans. Then it walked over to my car. He walked up, opened the door and grabbed a bag of popcorn and then left.”
She shared her story in hopes of reminding fellow citizens of the importance of bear safety.
“My goal is to educate people and try to protect the bears,” she said.
Wunderlich’s encounter with the bear on Oct. 15 was not the only incident where a bear got into a car in the Winter Park Highlands last week. Officials from the Fraser State Farm Insurance office confirmed that another similar incident occurred in Winter Park Highlands the following day, on Oct. 16.
Winter Park Highlands, a neighborhood located north of U.S. Highway 40 between Tabernash and Snow Mountain Ranch, has been significantly developed with residential properties over the years but continues to exist on the edge of wild spaces. Wunderlich said because bear encounters are a common occurrence in the area during spring and fall, she takes great care to keep her garbage can secured.
Bears in Colorado are currently going through a phase known as hyperphagia, which occurs annually during the fall. During that time, bears look to pack on pounds in what state wildlife officials call a “feeding frenzy” period. Bears in that time look to consume as many as 20,000 calories each day, foraging for food up to 20 hours at a time in preparation for their winter hibernation.
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